Each year, roughly 40 percent of the food produced in the United States goes uneaten. This waste takes a huge toll on the environment: not only does a huge amount of our water, energy and land go into growing food, but much of the produce that is trashed never makes it into a compost heap; instead, it rots in a landfill, emitting methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
One place food waste occurs is actually on the farm. One report estimated that up to 30 percent of farmers’ crops never make it to the market. This waste happens for a variety of reasons. Fluctuating prices may make that it is cheaper just to discard a particular crop, rather than paying for transport costs. Additionally, a lot of produce gets tossed for not looking “pretty” enough to sell.
Although the situation is bleak, a few ideas have been proposed to try to mitigate the problem. In other countries, grocery stores selling “ugly” food have done well, and recently, entrepreneurs have been thinking of trying them out in the United States. Other organizations work to connect farmers to food banks, so that food that would otherwise be wasted goes to the hungry, not the landfills.
How does all this food waste occur? What are some of the challenges facing those who would like to reduce food waste? What can ordinary Americans do to help with this problem? What policy changes would help to address the issue? We addressed these questions and more on twitter. Ben Simon (@Imperfectfruit) Founder and Executive Director of the Food Recovery Network, joined us to share his thoughts and insight. Also joining us from the EPA (@EPAland) was be Mathy Stanislaus, Assistant Administrator, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response; and Cheryl Coleman, Acting Director, Resource Conservation and Sustainability Division. NPR food and nutrition correspondent Allison Aubrey (@AubreyNPRFood) also joined the conversation.
Here were some of the highlights of our conversation: