The Tragic Food Waste Tale

Waste Not, Waist-ful: I’ve been researching food waste for the last 7 months. Time to share a few facts (I’m composing a substantial research paper on this topic that will eventually hit the Elements Blog.) Buckle up.

In 1974, the United States per capita food waste was 900 kcal/person/day. In 2009, that number reached 1,400 kcal/person/day, an increase of approximately 50%. That means that in 2009 alone, 150 trillion kcal were “landfilled”. That’s enough to feed 300 million adults for a year.

Hard to believe, yet true. You know what is really crazy? At the same time that food waste has been sky-rocketing (total wasted food energy now exceeds more than 40% of the total food energy produced), so is America’s waistline. Since 1974, obesity in the US has increased at a rate equal to the percentage of food we waste!

I call this the “Waste – Waist Relationship”. It boggles the mind … it’s NUTS! Americans are simultaneously eating more calories per day and throwing away more calories per day than ever before.

And consider this environmental impact statement: In 2009, food waste in the US accounted for more than 25% of total freshwater consumption and 300 million barrels of oil per year. And get this: the average farm requires 3 kcal of fossil fuel energy to produce 1 kcal of food. Feeling uneasy? Getting an idea about the unsustainability of our food supply chain?

Now, let’s bring it a little more closer to home. On a consumer level, an American family of four throws out an average of $1,484 worth of edible food a year. This creates an annual cost of $750 million in disposal fees, and using 4% of the total US oil consumption. Ugh. Nationally, the annual local tax costs associated with food disposal exceeds $1 billion.

Let’s go global. Globally, wasted food in 2007 occupied a space of almost 1.4 billion hectares, which equals about 28% of the world’s land area. If land used to grow food that isn’t eaten were a country, it would be the second largest country in the world, behind Russia.

Why do I share these facts with you?

A few reasons. First, personal awareness. Knowledge usually improves behavior, right? Be aware of what you’re contributing to this household, community, national and global food waste debacle. My second reason is very close to home. At Elements, we craft our meals with a knowing intent to reduce solid food waste.

Think about that. We make our meals with this outcome in mind. It’s another of the many benefits we provide to you, and one of the many social goods we fully support through our actions. When you eat your Elements, the probability of you wasting food is close to zero. (And we are researching possibilities of re-purposing our packaging… we’re working on this, too.) Eat your Elements, save money and help our planet.

Some light reading on this topic:

The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact

How America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council

The State of America’s Wasted Food & Opportunities to Make a Difference, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation

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