A Systems Approach to Reducing Consumer Food Waste
Approximately 30 percent of the edible food produced in the United States is wasted and a significant portion of this waste occurs at the consumer level. Despite food’s essential role as a source of nutrients and energy and its emotional and cultural importance, U.S. consumers waste an estimated average of 1 pound of food per person per day at home and in places where they buy and consume food away from home. Many factors contribute to this waste—consumers behaviors are shaped not only by individual and interpersonal factors but also by influences within the food system, such as policies, food marketing and the media. Some food waste is unavoidable, and there is substantial variation in how food waste and its impacts are defined and measured. But there is no doubt that the consequences of food waste are severe: the wasting of food is costly to consumers, depletes natural resources, and degrades the environment. In addition, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has severely strained the U.S. economy and sharply increased food insecurity, it is predicted that food waste will worsen in the short term because of both supply chain disruptions and the closures of food businesses that affect the way people eat and the types of food they can afford.