Food Waste and Why It Matters

In 2012 the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reported that 40% of the food produced in the United States is wasted1.  That’s a lot of food!  So why does food waste matter?

Food waste is an environmental, moral, economic, and nutrition issue.

The NRDC states that 10% of the energy budget, 50% of the land, and 80% of the freshwater used in the United States goes towards food production1. On top of that, 25% of methane emissions in landfills come from food waste1.  With 48.1 million food-insecure Americans2, and even more internationally, the food waste in this country and beyond is a moral issue.   It is an economic issue as well, with an average household of four throwing out $1,500 worth of food each year3.  Food waste is also a nutrition issue because the food that you don’t eat can’t nourish you.  It doesn’t matter how healthy the food you buy is if you don’t eat it.

Food waste is a big deal, and a big problem.  However, if each person does what they can to reduce their waste then we can work toward solving this problem.  You don’t have to change anyone else to change the world; you just have to do your part.  So, here is a list of ways you can reduce your food waste:

1. Create a menu and shopping list each week so that you can plan the food you will need, and actually consume, in the coming week. This will help you to buy what you need, reduce waste, and save money.

2. After shopping, prepare foods when you get home so that they are ready and easily used later in the week. That being said, fresh berries will actually last longer if you wait to wash them right before you use them4.

3. If you have food that you haven’t used and will not use promptly, freeze it for later instead of throwing it out. This link has a chart of how long foods will last in the freezer and tips on how to freeze and thaw foods.  Putting an end date on foods will help you to remember when to use it by.

4. Knowing how to store foods properly can increase their usability. Here is a link with information on how to store food and how long different types of food will last.  For your next shopping trip, add to your list any items you will need for proper food storage such as: wax paper, freezer bags, plastic wrap, tin foil, and air-tight containers.

5. When eating out, order smaller portions. Sometimes the kids’ menu portion is all you really need.  Or split an entrée with someone and order extra sides if needed.

6. If you do have food that needs to be disposed of, compost it instead of throwing it in the garbage. Here is a useful infographic about composting.

Food Waste

The weekend food waste for my household. Not all of this made it to the garbage, but in all honesty, it would have if I hadn’t just written a blog about food waste.


Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,

Rebecca Armstrong


  1. Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Natural Resources Defense Council website.  Updated August 21, 2012.
  2. Hunger and Poverty Facts. Feeding America Website.  Date unknown.
  3. Food for Thought. Natural Resources Defense Council Blog.  Published September 29, 2015.
  4. Should I Wash Fresh Fruit in Vinegar? Best Food Facts website. Published July 17, 2013.
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