Wasting Less Food Is the Key to Reducing Hunger

If America could cut down on waste and get surplus food to the right tables, as many as 25 million people could be fed.

Close-up of a woman sweeping the leftovers from a meal into a domestic garbage bin. The background is pure white.
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By Hal M. Bundrick

Americans have super-sized food portions to the point of expanding waists and increasing waste. While producing food from farm to fork uses half of our land and 80 percent of our freshwater, 40 percent of that nourishment is wasted. The Natural Resources Defense Council in 2012 concluded we throw out more than 20 pounds of food per person per month, with a value of $165 billion each year.

Meanwhile, 21 percent of Americans know someone who doesn't have enough to eat, according to a Harris Poll released this month. The council says that by reducing food waste by just 15 percent, we could feed more than 25 million Americans every year.

"With so many people wanting for food in the U.S., it would be easy to think that there simply isn't enough to go around," says Mike de Vere, president of the Harris Poll, "but the sad fact is that if we could cut down on waste and get our surplus food to the right tables, we could feed as many as 25 million Americans. With more than one in five children at risk of hunger in our country, these are challenges we need to take seriously."

Of the 2,300 American adults polled, most see the problem of hunger in the United States as either serious (53 percent) or very serious (22 percent). In the survey, 86 percent feel that feeding hungry families in the United States should be solved before America tackles the problem on a global level (although 85 percent want that addressed, too. And 78 percent say that wasting food is immoral.

The council says the average American consumer wastes 50 percent more food than in the 1970s –- and ten times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia. Reducing waste to combat hunger is an issue that will be of growing concern in the years to come. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that food production must increase by 70 percent by 2050 to feed an expected global population of some 9.1 billion.

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August 11 2014 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obama, Pelosi and Reid all support use of Ethanol for fuel. Ethanol is made from Corn.
Obama, Pelosi and Reid support hunger.

May 30 2014 at 4:27 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jdykbpl45's comment
Craig Bean

Sorry, but your sad attempt to politicize this isn't working. No one is going hungry because of ethanol. Corn growers would just grow less if we stopped using some for ethanol. Plenty of farmers upped their acres just to supply this new market.

May 30 2014 at 9:39 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Ethanol is made from corn, that otherwise would be consumed as food. Obama and the democrats like Pelosi, and Reid, support this. Therefore they support hunger!

May 30 2014 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm pretty sure a lot of the food thrown away is kale, as well it should be. A friend who happens to be the executive chef of a large convention hotel routinely makes menu decisions based on what people don't eat. How he finds that out is to simply watch what comes back to the kitchen at the point where the wait staff drops off the dirty dishes. He once told me the key to controlling food cost is to eliminate uneaten food as much as possible. One way is to offer a wider selection of side dishes--not so many as to be confusing, though.

I throw away very little in terms of leftovers. And when eating out I only order what I plan to consume, but usually still end up with a doggie bag. One thing I've found is as I get older I tend to eat smaller meals. Which is good because the price of everything is ticking upwards today.

May 30 2014 at 8:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just go to a dumpster and check out all the food that is thrown away -perfectly good food - mostly because "rules" say that left over (but untouched) food cannot be used over.

May 30 2014 at 8:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A simple kitchen scale can save you a fortune. Four ounces of anything is a serving.
For example, if you are a family of four, you would weigh-out a pound of broccoli to create four servings. If you cook two pounds of broccoli most of it will go uneaten and become soggy left overs and get thrown out or if you put 8 ounces on the plates it will get half eaten and again thrown out. This was found after decades of inspecting plates headed for the dish tank.
Four ounces is a serving. Simply weigh your food on the scale. It takes seconds to do.

May 30 2014 at 6:58 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply