A recent study by Magnet found America as the second leading country in food wastage. The revelation that Americans generate an average of two hundred and seventy-eight kilograms per capita is a clear indication that the US is leading to food production. On the other hand, the figures demonstrate that the country lacks effective mechanisms to prevent wastage and ensure that no American starves as others offload leftovers in landfills. The fact that dumpsites are filled with tons of spoilt and left-over food means that food wastage in the US is a serious problem that needs urgent measures. In essence, the phenomenon, as mentioned above, spells food insecurity, environmental impact, and economic impact. Whereas the causes of food wastage vary from country to country, it emerges that consumer behavior, food policy, and confusion of expiration date commonly contribute to wastage in the US. In this light, the problem of food wastage can be solved by behavior change, favorable food policy, and standardization of food date labels.
Food wastage is a problem because it is a threat to food security. It is estimated that one-third of the food that goes to waste in America is capable of bringing to end food insecurity in the event that it is distributed effectively to the people in need of it. USDA projects that close to twelve percent of the US households were prone to hunger at some point in 2016 (Coleman-Jensen et al., 5). With this in mind, every American ought to seriously consider food waste as a critical subject that needs urgent measures. Households should reflect on food insecurity each time they empty their plates in bins. Although a good number of individuals think that food insecurity can be best solved by food donations, in a real sense, hunger can be eliminated by redistribution of food to food banks (Neff, 12). In this light, food waste exposes the populace to hunger, consequently forcing the country to devise proper distribution channels to make the essential commodity to hungry people.
Food waste is a significant concern because it leaves an indelible mark on the environment. In particular, the growth and transportation of food consume resources, not to mention that it creates emissions. For example, the agricultural sector accounts for 38% of the country’s water consumption (Myers 236). Besides, transportation of food causes carbon dioxide emissions, even though a lot of water is used, and volumes of methane gas are produced in livestock farming. Furthermore, the use of fertilizer in agricultural fields causes nitrogen and phosphorous to pollute water bodies. Coupled with animal waste, fertilizer leads to eutrophication in waterways. Clearly, the above issue negatively affects Americans and the rest of the world because it gradually causes climate change. Since a lot of food goes to waste, it seems that the US is investing much in food production at the expense of environmental degradation. Thus, there is need to reduce food wastage to save the environment.
The seriousness of food wastage lies in its influence on the economy. According to Martin, America loses two hundred and eighteen billion US dollars in food loss (Martin, 1155). On the other hand, American farmers incur a loss of fifteen billion dollars annually through food wastage while manufacturers part with two billion dollars per year. American consumers are not spared because their businesses lose fifty-seven billion dollars on an annual basis. As such, food wastage affects the pockets of each American. This problem requires the attention of the population, considering that its solution lies in their hands. There is a need to reduce food waste and to strengthen the American economy.
Confusion surrounding expiration date significantly contributes to the wastage of food. Notably, label confusion is responsible for approximately 20% of consumer waste, and it is valued at $29 billion (Myers, 146). This means that close to 90% of American households dispose of fresh food occasionally (Myers, 149). Different labeling practices such as 'sell by', 'best before', and 'use by' often confuse consumers leading to the trashing of food while still fresh. The establishment of standardized labeling practices can solve this confusion. In essence, the creation of uniform standards across the globe aimed at reducing complexity around expiry dates would minimize ambiguity in labels and help the consumer to know the exact time that the food would not be fit for consumption. Knowing the exact date allows consumers to cut wastage by avoiding over-storage of food and also avoid buying goods in bulk if they have a short- shelf life.
Consumer behavior causes food waste, and it can be solved by using the best food practices. Generally, consumers dispose of food for different reasons. Affluence, for instance, is commonly cited as a contributing factor to food waste. The causes are, however, rooted in poor planning and lack of awareness regarding the consumption of food. For example, purchasing too much foodstuff is likely to cause the consumer to throw away food. In addition, preparing a lot of food, or poor cooking and lack of awareness about food storage create more chances for the food to end up in the landfill (Myers, 137). Most importantly, eating habits such as a preference for certain types of food leads to the neglect of others hence rendering them useless even though they are suitable for human consumption. To avoid wastage, consumers ought to embrace best practices such as purchasing food in accordance with the number of household members, learning and practicing food preservation, and serving small portions. Also, farmers should produce food basing on demand to avoid the overproduction of food that is not popular.
Food packaging necessitates wastage. Food that is packaged in overly large containers or portions leave the consumer with no choice other than purchase the product whose quantity exceeds demand. In most cases, buyers prefer large portions of food owing to the notion that it helps in achieving net savings as compared to the purchase of small packages. However, the need to save some dollars comes at a price: food wastage. In other words, the consequence of bulk purchasing is a false economy whereby half of the purchase finds its way to the composite when it overstays. This problem can be tackled by reducing the sizes of packages, which would allow customers to buy the quantity that is equivalent to household needs. Similarly, restaurants and cafeterias can manage food by serving food on smaller placed rather that trays. This idea has already been tested and proved to be effective. The University of Massachusetts Amherst removed trays from its dining halls and as a result, it reported a 30%reduction in wastage. It is worth a try in other places.
The quest for perfect produce contributes to wastage. Emphasize food appearance causes food wastage, which can be tackled by the introduction of food policy. Many restaurants and food retailers across the country throw away food simply because it is not pretty enough to attract consumers. Close to one-third of food waste results from retail stores that dispose of large quantities of fresh food owing to quality demands that focus on appearance. The UK-Based Soil Association argued that crops that do not meet the appearance standards are most likely to produce twenty to forty percent rejection. On the other hand, Myers highlights that a cucumber farmer projects that 75% of his rejected product is suitable for human consumption (Myers, 88). This can be solved by enacting policies that sensitize consumers and companies on the nutritive values of products as opposed to appearance. Similarly, initiatives aimed at marketing and popularizing ugly produce would reduce wastage.
Lastly, lack of waste tracking and analytics leads to wastage and hence need to employ technology. In most cases, food goes to waste because of the absence of devices that can track places where it is required. Apparently, there are initiatives aimed at using technology to avoid losses. Silicon Valley, for example, is capitalizing on waste problems to make a fortune. Food-tech has proved successful considering that it made a whopping 5.7 million in 2015 (Myers, 157). Currently, fresh food wastage is a $1 trillion problem in terms of irrigation and water consumption. Therefore, technology stands a high chance of bringing positive changes that would eventually cut the amount spent in production and curb wastage.
Overall, food wastage is a serious problem that needs urgent measures. The fact that the US produces large quantities of food does not mean that the challenge to hunger if finished. In fact, the real threat to food insecurely is deeply rooted in food wastage. Various factors make America to be ranked second in food wastage. Consumer behavior, food policy, and labeling of expiry dates; all combined predispose a section of the American populace to hunger. Fortunately, these causes can be solved by embracing best practices, enacting food policies that emphasize on nutritive value and standardization of expiry labels. It is worth noting that the above solutions can effectively reduce wastage and hence ensures food security, conserve the environment, and foster economic growth. Although Americans must be concerned with wastage, they are, however, supposed to consolidate their efforts and curb the wastage at the household level. A well-balanced food supply and consumer chain may negate incidences of food wastage. Altogether, the solutions provided are valid and possible if all stakeholders are involved.
- Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Rabbitt P. Matthew, Gregory A. Christian and Singh Anita. Household Food Security in the United States in 2016. United States Department of Agriculture, September 2017, http://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/84973/err-237.pdf. Accessed 7 November 2019.
- Martin, Donna S. 'Food Waste: A Solvable Problem'. Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol 117, no. 8, 2017, p. 1155.
- Myers, Norman and Spoolman Scott. Environmental Issues and Solutions: A Modular Approach. Cengage Learning, 2013.
- Neff, Roni A. et al. 'Wasted Food: U.S. Consumers' Reported Awareness, Attitudes, And Behaviors'. Plos One, vol 10, no. 6, 2015, p. 12.