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We each waste 1 pound of food a day?!

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I just stumbled across this New York Times article about food waste in the United States...and holy banana boats!  The average person in the US wastes about 1 pound of edible food per day (or for the average family of four, it comes out to be 122 pounds each month). 


Check out this amazing graphic from the article:



Definitely makes me glad I have a lot of Pyrex glassware for all my leftovers....

post #2 of 20

Yeah that's nuts - way too much wasted food!  That's what tupperware is for.

post #3 of 20

And a growing number of college cafeterias have eliminated trays, meaning students have to carry their food to a table rather than loading up a tray.


Kiwi was telling me about that the other day- schools are saving a ton of water by not having to wash those trays.  I guess not being able to carry more food than they can eat is another advantage!


This article really is amazing- it's a shame that all that food is being wasted, espeically when there's shortages at food banks, but for it to end up in a landfill as well is really unexcusable.  I hope that in the near future, we see curbside compost collection along with recycling...

post #4 of 20

I would like to think that my family does not waste on this level, but some food is bound to be wasted... We've tought our kids to bring the remainders of their packed lunches home so they don't just throw stuff away.  But sometimes the organic milk goes bad, cold items left out on counter by accident, or you find that old package in a cupboard of some very expired item  :-/


For the "daily" average, we are probably performing better than the national average, but we certainly are not perfect and some stuff unavoidably gets wasted...

post #5 of 20

This sounds a little suspect to me. I mean, it's just not enough information. How many people are really throwing out their leftovers? How much of that is from restaurants? Or from individual customers throwing out their leftovers from restaurants? How much of it is people misjudging how much food they can eat in a week and having their leftovers go bad? How much is from food prep, like peeling a vegetable for a particular preparation even though in other dishes you can eat the skin?


It just bugs me when the media puts out the alarming statistics but doesn't give us enough information to know what is really going on and what we might need to change!

post #6 of 20

Oh and upon rereading I notice that it's not just consumers, it's also retailers and food service businesses (and it's an old statistic too)... it seems almost cruel to average it out to say that a family of four is throwing out 122 pounds of food a month, when grocery stores throw out such a huge amount of bruised, irregular, "expired" or misplaced food every day.


(Hm, how much does one family eat in a month? I found a site that said people eat 12 pounds of food a day, which seems like an awful generalization - but if true as an average, then a family of four would be eating about 1,440 pounds of food a month. 122 pounds would represent 8.5% of that - but I still bet that most of it is restaurants and grocery stores.)

post #7 of 20

Ah good investigative work!  I actually initially wondered if they were counting food thrown out by restaurants and grocery stores.  That makes it more of a criticism of the country as a whole than of individual consumers.

post #8 of 20
Originally Posted by oakling:

I found a site that said people eat 12 pounds of food a day


what??  wow, that is a lot of food.  i guess i have trouble imagining that the food we consume weighs that much??

post #9 of 20

Have any of you seen/heard about the people who scavenge food from dumpsters and cook gourmet meals?


I heard it on NPR/MPR a while ago...



post #10 of 20

Nice work Oakling - counting in retailers and restaurants makes it an interesting average, but an invalid statistic.  As far as consuming 12 pounds of food a day - it makes more sense when you think of how much liquids weigh.  Water, soda, milk, coffee, energy drinks, more water - that is probably a huge portion of it.


Also - good points on things like peelings that could be used in other dishes.  My first thought is orange peels - I don't make marmalade, so am I "wasting" the peels?


Another thought - In Novemeber I make pumpkin pies from scratch - so I buy extra pumpkins as you can't use a jack-o-lantern to make pies.  Only the rind is used.  I don't cook all the seeds, there may be a use for the stringy stuff (not used for pies), and NEARLY ALL pumpkins bought this time of year are discarded ... so that is probably figured as waste as well.

post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 

Hm...okay, so it's true that the statistic was from a study conducted in 1995.  However....I do think food waste (and waste in general) is an issue in this country.


I just found a few articles about a study (I gather it was published in 2004) conducted by Timothy Jones at the University of Arizona.  Based on an article published in UANews, the study appears to have concluded that, in the US, "40 to 50% of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten."  That figure does include waste directly from farms/orchards, from retailers, warehouses, etc.


The study also analyzed food waste from households.


Jones' research also shows that by measuring how much food is actually being brought into households, a clearer picture of that end of the food stream is beginning to emerge.

On average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Fifteen percent of that includes products still within their expiration date but never opened. Jones estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables and grain products.


I also found this article about the same study.


Last year, as part of his research, Jones and his students analyzed the garbage of 200 American families in Arizona and Delaware to learn how much edible or once edible food gets thrown out each day.

The researchers listed and weighed every kernel of corn, slice of bread, half-eaten salad, and day-old casserole that their test families threw in the garbage.

They found that, on average, a family discards 1.28 pounds of food a day, about 470 pounds per household per year, or 14 percent of all food brought into the house.


I haven't listened to it yet, but here's an NPR interview with Timothy Jones.


Now, you may say that you can't draw a conclusion like that from 200 families from two states...but...research has to start somewhere.  And at the very least, that's an analysis that does not include restaurant waste.  Although...I haven't been able to find the paper itself.  I did find Jones's CV and he's authored some other interesting pieces on food loss and recovery.


Originally Posted by kiwi:

Have any of you seen/heard about the people who scavenge food from dumpsters and cook gourmet meals?


I heard it on NPR/MPR a while ago...



As for food scavenging...I can't say I heard a piece like that.  But there's a movement that started in San Francisco called the Replating.  Replating is basically just taking food you don't want (leftovers, a bag of chips, etc), and leaving them on top of the nearest trash can.  It's a symbol to those in need that the food is up for grabs - and no one has to rumage through the trash can.


I've replated quite a few dad gave me probably 2 pounds of tortilla chips (part of one of those huge Costco bags).  I couldn't eat them all myself so I replated the majority of them.  I've replated some cookies that my roommate bought (and hated).  I replated some restaurant leftovers.  I've seen other people replate bottles of Coke...granola bars, even.  Most stuff that's replated on top of the trash can/newspaper boxes on the street corner by my house disappears within a few hours.

Edited by stins - Fri, 10 Oct 2008 17:34:36 GMT
post #12 of 20

Yeah there's no doubt as a country we waste a whole lot of food.  But on an individual basis, it's hard to imagine ourselves wasting a pound of food per day.


Some people do waste quite a bit of food though.  Probably my favorite show on the Planet Green network is Wasted.  They go to people's houses, show them all the waste they produce, their total carbon footprint, then help them become more green.  They literally collect some of their trash over a period of time and then dump it out to show them all the stuff they wasted.  Sometimes it's a pretty crazy amount of food that gets discarded.

post #13 of 20

Replating sounds like a really good idea!


Although businesses probably account for more than their fair share of food waste, it's still an issue for most households.  Our apartment seems to make things go off really quickly, so we try to keep everything in the fridge- bread, tomatoes, etc.  We were tired of having to toss food that had gone bad.


We've also started throwing overripe bananas into the freezer.  Then we have some on hand if we want to make banana bread, and most of them get cut up and tossed into a blender for smoothies!


The other place that we cut a lot of our food waste was by dating our soymilk.  We don't drink a lot of plain soymilk (mostly just on cereal), but it's supposed to be used within 7-10 days.  By dating the soymilk, we no longer toss milk that's still good, because we aren't sure how old it is.  We bought two of these to keep track of the time for us- they work really well.

post #14 of 20

Oops, I almost submitted that twice...

Edited by nitedreamer - Fri, 10 Oct 2008 20:27:37 GMT
post #15 of 20

I never waste food because I know how to cook. Bring back cooking classes in the schools! Kids also need to learn how to budget and manage money; they're not learning it from their parents since my generation was the last one to learn those skills in school.



post #16 of 20

To be honest, I think that a lot of people need to be more careful of what they waste. They should just cook as much food as they are going to eat and lets say you happen to have more left over chicken. People should be creative enough to make that into another meal. Same goes with fruits, lets say you have some fruits that have gone bad...can't you make a smoothie out of that? We need to minimize what we buy in our households and how much food we really need. This I think will help with not wasting so much food because I hate to waste food! I always think about other people in other countries who are not even fortunate enough to even think this way.  

post #17 of 20

I think we need to assume if you are on this forum you are likely a little more aware of your affect on the food chain. That being said I know many people whos lifestyles are inline with the article. I live in a neighborhood of soccer moms who are to busy to cook. They fill their fridge and pantry with foods hoping they will have time to cook them and instead toss them out when they are expired because they have eaten more from the microwave or drive thru window. We have become a nation of instant everything. A meal is something to get through instead of to sit down and enjoy and nourish our bodies. I see it all the time in my family and friends all the convenience foods and premade and pre packaged food they buy on a regular basis. If a store doesn't have baked chickens and salads already for the shopper they will lose business, so they have to over shoot the expected number they will sell and toss the rest.


The other factor that increases food waste is food miles, corporations have to anticipate a certain amount of food not looking photo perfect when it arrives from thousands of miles away and then gassed to look ripe so they have to over harvest and over ship.


I'm reading an amazingly entertaining and enlightening book called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". I recommend it to anyone. When we get in touch with our food chain we waste less, and eat a more healthy and flavorful diet.

post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by whsgreenmom:

I live in a neighborhood of soccer moms who are to busy to cook. They fill their fridge and pantry with foods hoping they will have time to cook them and instead toss them out when they are expired


I hate to admit it, but I've definitely had my share of composting food because I just didn't eat it in time.  I think for me, the main issue is quantity.  I'm only cooking for myself, but so often, grocery store quantities are just too much.  I think the solution in that case has to be to train myself to buy more at farmers markets where I can just get the quantity I need (and of course, support my local farmers).  Or...coordinate better with my roommates.  Perhaps both.


I agree with whsgreenmom.  We surely are a bunch of folks looking for instant gratification.  I think something that comes with that is that we're also so accustomed to a disposable lifestyle.  Disposable plates, napkins, toys, electronics, etc. etc.  It's a shame to think of all the resources, food and otherwise, that enters the waste stream.


I'll have to put Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on my to-read list!

post #19 of 20

I used to get distressed by the volume of stuff going down the garbage disposal - along with the water to flush it all, but NOW I have a very good handle on food waste in my home - virtually none - my worms are very well fed and they don't even care if the tomato that fell to the bottom of the bin is soft and mushy, or they just get the peel off the banana. They happily devour my wilted lettuce leaf or dried out donut and give me free fertilizer. Vermi-composting is an excellent choice for people who live in apartments or townhouses with no real gardening space outside. My house & patio plants are very happy with the Worm Tea I give them. I tell you what . . . I even give them the black & white shredded paper waste as a low-calorie bedding where they can go to rest after gorging themselves on my food scraps, but they eventually convert that too.

post #20 of 20

Replating sounds like an excellent idea, at least for city dwellers.  More people need to start composting, rather than just throwing out their leftovers!  Just from prepping dinner or scraping plates afterwards, you can end up with a large bowl full of vegetable waste (trimmings, peels, scraps your kids wouldn't eat, veggies "gone bad" in the fridge) each day.  Instead of putting it in the landfill, consider starting a composting bin.  With minimal effort, you can turn much of your "wasted" food into compost you can later use on your garden or flowerbed.  Just don't compost meat products or pet waste (yuk).  Check out one of the many composting sites (like for tips on how to start composting and what you shouldn't put in the bin. 

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