It's no secret that Americans have a love affair with food, but a recent report shows that 40% of U.S. edibles goes uneaten.
The amount of unconsumed perishables is worth $165 billion per year and is estimated to equal more than 20 pounds of food per person every month, according to the National Resources Defense Council's report "Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill."
For the average U.S. household of four, food waste translates into an estimated $1,350 to $2,275 in annual losses, according to the report.
By comparison, the average American consumer discards 10 times as much as the average person in southeast Asia.
At 22% of the total discarded food waste, fresh fruit and vegetables make up the largest component. Dairy comes in second at 19%, followed by meat, poultry and fish at 18%.
Meanwhile, the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste, according to the NRDC, a nonprofit and nonpartisan advocacy group. Food waste accounts for almost 25% of U.S. methane emissions.
The report suggests that the U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study for food losses in the food system and establish national goals for food waste reduction.
Businesses should begin to understand the extent and opportunity of their own waste streams and adopting best practices, whereas consumers can help reduce waste by learning when food goes bad or buying "imperfect" produce.
"Reducing food losses by just 15% would be enough food to feed more than 25 million Americans every year at a time when one in six Americans lack a secure supply of food to their tables," according to the report. "Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers."