U.S. household Food Wastage, Facts?


By Cooking Panda

For the first time, new findings calculate uneaten food levels in individual households. Food wastage affects the economy, health and environment alike.

Until now, while the researchers had an approximate idea about the food wastage levels in the United States as a whole, a lack of wide-ranging up-to-date data prohibited them from making estimates for individual households. New research seems to have found the missing puzzle.

Earlier studies showed a 30-40% of food supply is wasted leading to more than $160 billion worth of losses, team undergoing the present investigation highlighted

Professor Edward Jaenicke and doctoral candidate Yang Yu — from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education at Pennsylvania State University — concluded that about one-third of food purchased gets wasted by U.S. households through production economics methods(findings reported in American Journal of Agricultural Economics.)

Such wastage costs the economy $240 billion a year and the households $1866 annually.

The calculation Method

The source of the study’s data set included 4,000 households who participated in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS). 

The minimum metabolic energy requirements needed to sustain a particular body weight was calculated using each individual’s height weight, age and gender.

The method that Prof. Jaenicke and Yu used, used a technique of production economics wherein efficiency of a production process is reflected using input(food acquisition data from the survey) and output(minimum energy requirement).

Math Alert! The Difference between purchased food and quantity needed to sustain bodyweight equated to the amount of food left uneaten.


Result: Massive Wastage

The conclusion of the research was two-fold.

31.9% of the food purchased by the average U.S. household gets wasted

However, purely based on demographics, in households with higher income and healthier diets more food was wasted. Prof. Jaenicke opined that since fruits and vegetables are readily perishable, therefore the healthy diets programs may be inadvertently leading to increased wastage.

Lower wastage levels, observed in households:

  • with high food insecurity
  • placed farther away from the grocery store 
  • wherein shopping lists were made.
  • had more members

Prof. Jaenicke explained the last factor: “People in larger households have more meal management options. More people means leftover food is more likely to be eaten.”

According to Prof. Jaenicke, food and portion size are also key factors, “A household of two may not eat an entire head of cauliflower, so some could be wasted, whereas a larger household is more likely to eat all of it, perhaps at a single meal.” 


How is the climate affected!

If healthy eating programs are leading to food wastage, then less wasteful programs ought to be encouraged.

He asserts that food wastage thrashes the climate too, “Resources used to produce the uneaten food, including land, energy, water, and labor, are wasted as well.”

He states, “According to the [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations], food waste is responsible for about 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas annually, which would be, if regarded as a country, the third-largest emitter of carbon after the U.S. and China.”

Worried? Well, you should be but the silver lining is that equipped with all these findings, researchers are now in a better position to find the solutions.

Prof. Jaenicke concluded “We hope our methodology provides a new lens through which to analyze individual household food waste,”

*Source: Medical News Today

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