This article was published in Global Times (US Edition)
Call it a byproduct of affluence or what you will.
At a time when hunger is staggering in the world, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) revealed a shocking truth: 40% of food in US, which equals to about $165 billion, is uneaten every year.
An average American family of four, the report says, tosses up to $2,275 worth of food annually. Since the 1970s, food wastage has skyrocketed by 50%, while food wastage is the largest element of solid waste in US landfills, the report adds. Food waste, as it decays in landfills, also produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas.
A UN report says nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger today and 19 millions are children under the age of five at immediate risk of dying. This results in 3.5 million children deaths annually.
Asked how much baby food is being wasted in the US that can feed babies in Third World countries, Dana Gunders, project scientist at NRDC, San Francisco, CA, told Global Times: “I don’t know about baby food specifically. The UN’s FAO estimates that the average consumer in North America wastes 10 times that of someone in South Asia. This is really an ethical tragedy. While it’s hard to imagine that food from an individual’s kitchen in one country has any relation to hunger across the world, we are facing a global increase in demand for food. As that demand grows, we will need to become less wasteful and ensure any food grown is going to its best use. Just as energy efficiency reduces demand for energy, wasting less food can do the same.”
According to US Department of Agriculture, the energy embedded in wasted food represents about 2% of annual energy consumption.
The NRDC report says even a 15% cut in food supply losses could feed as much as 25 million Americans per year.
Andrew Shakman, co-founder and president of LeanPath, Inc. in Portland, OR, said: “Due to food loss and food waste, approximately 40% of the food produced in the US is never consumed. This vast amount of waste consumes financial resources and generates adverse environmental impacts. It also drains money and food, which might otherwise be available to help needy Americans who don’t know the source of their next meal…Americans need to prioritize food waste reduction and focus efforts to prevent and minimize food waste.”
LeanPath has devised an automated food waste tracking system that has helped cut food waste and run greener, more sustainable operations.
“Americans must realize the consequence of food waste when specters of droughts loom over parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, S Carolina, and N Carolina,” said Amit Sengupta, an Indian-American from Cambridge, Mass.
Unsold fruits and vegetables in grocery stores comprise an enormous amount of this waste. But, consumers and restaurants are also to blame. “The first time I went to Costco, I was shocked by the giant cold storage room where frozen fruits were kept. It’s literally a frozen fruit mountain… In restaurant, a deluxe version burger could feed at least two guys… Look the amount of coffee served in a cafe. It’s impossible for one person to consume it,” said Zongpu Yue, a Chinese student at Columbia University, NY.
Talking about reducing food waste, Vineet Kumar, a software engineer, in Bear, Delaware, said: “We must teach our kids about the consequence of food wastage… Less food waste would lead to more-efficient land use, better water resource management, more sustainable use of phosphorus, and it’d have positive impact on climate change…If we stop being wasteful and become a little bit frugal, we can save millions of starved souls across the globe.”