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A Country of Abundance: Food Waste in America

June 2, 2020

It comes as a surprise to nobody that America is a country of excess. For just about any product you would want to buy here in the States, there are countless variations of said product made by several different suppliers. There’s constantly an abundance of different options to select which can be great for consumers, since that abundance drives down prices and minimizes shortages for a specific product. What many Americans fail to realize, however, is that this abundance has created a significant problem in our society today – food waste.

According to Feeding America, each year, around 72 billion pounds of food goes to waste in the United States. There are many factors that contribute to this gigantic waste of food. From farmers not being able to find a buyer for a portion of the crops they’ve grown, to the consumer throwing away unfinished or spoiled leftovers, waste happens at nearly every level of the food supply chain.

Nearly 40 percent of food waste in the US comes from consumer facing businesses like grocery stores. It’s strange to think that grocery stores, a place where food is constantly being purchased and shelves are constantly being stocked, can contribute so much to food waste, but that is the reality we face today. A huge reason why grocery stores are throwing out so much food is because consumers want to buy food that looks the most appealing or “perfect”.

We’ve all been there before, scanning over the produce section for that perfect Honeycrisp apple or the best looking red bell pepper, choosing them over their clearly inferior (and uglier) produce siblings. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this approach. You’re the paying customer who gets to decide which bunch of bananas you’re going to spend your hard earned money on, so obviously you’re choosing the best looking food items.

The only problem with this train of thought is that if everyone else thinks the same way (which they do) then perfectly good “ugly” food will waste away on the shelves and eventually be thrown out. When this consumer pattern is repeated, grocery stores pick up on the trend, and throw out that “ugly” produce before it even gets the chance to be purchased by a more thoughtful consumer.

I, like many other Americans, never really thought about how my grocery shopping preferences can contribute to food waste. That all changed when I came across Misfit Market, a company dedicated to lowering the amount of food waste in the US by collecting these “ugly” food items, and shipping them directly to their subscribers. Through Misfit Market, I’m able to get most of the produce I would normally buy at the grocery store conveniently shipped to my door. The awesome part about this subscription is knowing that I will be using food that would otherwise be thrown out (alright, not having to make as many grocery runs is pretty awesome too). What really matters the most though is knowing that I’m helping produce less food waste, even if it is on a small scale.

It’s fitting that my mom was the person to introduce me to Misfit Market, since reducing food waste has always been something she has been very vocal about. This issue has always been close to her heart, due to the fact that she spent most of her childhood in a native Brazilian village where resources were more difficult to come by. So, for the first 18 years of her life, my mom’s family made the most out of every food item they had, creating little to no waste. Because of this early life experience, my mom raised me and my siblings to be more thoughtful of the waste we create in our own lives.

Eliminating food waste isn’t just an ethical issue either. There are pretty large environmental concerns the come along with getting rid of 72 billion pounds of food each year. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, China and the United States produce the most carbon emissions in the world. If global food wastage was a country itself, it would be the third largest carbon emission contributor. Additionally, nearly 21 percent of landfills in the United States is food waste. All of these number are staggering even before mentioning that there are 37 million Americans that still struggle with hunger today.

Obviously, I feel incredibly lucky to be living in a country where I’m able to buy foods from all over the world just eight minutes down the road from my house. I’m not condemning people for only picking the best looking foods. I’m still guilty of that at times. I would just like for you to consider doing your part to produce less food waste, and help shift our wasteful society to one that’s full of thoughtful consumers who use their abundance of resources efficiently.

Sources

https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/our-approach/reduce-food-waste

https://www.misfitsmarket.com/pages/faqs#1

http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/nr/sustainability_pathways/docs/FWF_and_climate_change.pdf


Written by: Drew Snavely

Drew is the Special Events Coordinator at Student Activities. He has a B.A. in Business Administration: Financial Planning. Drew is responsible for maintaining analytics for event surveys, social media and website. He deals with various event logistics for all events such as filing out work orders and securing event rentals. He also helps manage monthly budgets, event finances and receipts.