An abundance of food waste


We live in America, the land of plenty. But we cannot ignore the fact that we waste too much of what we have been given.

As we look forward to Thanksgiving, many of us are eagerly anticipating tables overflowing with food. We are not thinking about the amount of food we will throw away.

This is because we are in the habit of wastefulness. We live in a throw away society.

In the United States 40 percent of our food is never eaten. It is wasted somewhere between the farm and our tables, or it is tossed away right off of our plates.

This is enough food to fill up the 90,000 seat Rose Bowl each day, or about a half a pound of food per American, per day. Many sources report that this is a conservative estimate.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Americans squander $165 Billion each year on food that is never eaten, and spend $750 million on its disposal alone.

Much of the food is discarded before it ever makes it to our plates. Some is wasted in transport, some in storage while waiting to be sold, some from overbuying at restaurants and buffets, and rotting away in refrigerators in American homes.

It is estimated by the U.S.D.A. that 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs and 20 percent of milk is tossed away each year.

While a quarter to half of the food which is bought is thrown away, 1 in 6 Americans is going hungry.

The California Health Interview Survey of 2010 revealed that of the nearly 3 million adult Californians in food insecure households, over 1 million reside in Los Angeles County.

In the cities Citrus College serves, the below poverty rate average is about 11 percent of households according to the Citrus College Fact Book.

While their neighbors and fellow students go hungry, the average American wastes more than their own body weight in food each year.

But it is not just food that is being wasted.

As a result of all of this food waste in America, the resources it takes to grow, process, pack and transport the food to households is lost as well.

The U.S.D.A. reports that 80 percent of freshwater consumption is used to care for livestock, water crops and in the processing of food.

Although the food is discarded by Americans, the majority of food waste occurs either before the average consumer buys it, or when an establishment like a restaurant or institution has poor food management policies in place.

The Food Waste Reduction Alliance did a 2011 study on the American food manufacturing, retailing and wholesaling industries and found that although the food manufacturing industry contributed 44.3 billion pounds of food waste, 94.6 percent of it was diverted to higher used such as animal feed, recycling or donations.

The same study showed that the retail and wholesale industries added 3.8 billion pounds of food waste in 2011, but only contributed 55.6 percent  to higher use.

The EPA recommends food waste prevention techniques such as better planning, proper food storage, and composting.

The war on food waste starts with each individual taking responsibility for their part in this viscous cycle.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, let us remember the spirit of the holiday.  Let us be grateful for all that we have. Let us not thoughtlessly take for granted all of our abundance.

Let us all commit to reducing food waste in our lives, during the holidays and all year. If you feel the need to buy more than you need, donate to food charities at Citrus College.

Bring non-perishable food items to  donations boxes on campus.

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