Food Waste:

An Opportunity To Improve Resource Use

CED-77-118: Published: Sep 16, 1977. Publicly Released: Sep 16, 1977.

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About 20% of all food produced in the United States is lost or wasted in a year, amounting to about $31 billion. Losses occur during harvest, storage, transportation, processing, at the wholesale/retail level, and at restaurants, institutions, and households.

Large losses occurred at the consumption level, both institutional and household. Uneaten food thrown away (plate waste) is a problem in the National School Lunch Programs, and similar waste has been reported in all group feeding situations. The Department of Agriculture's food stamp program contains an allowance for some food to be discarded. It was estimated that, for 1977, 1% of waste would result in a food loss of $50 million. The Department has given only limited financial support to research to make reduction of loss economically feasible. Households discarded the most edible food, worth $11.7 billion. Research on loss showed that households with good knowledge of food safety have less waste. Reducing food loss would: improve the productivity and efficiency of the food system; increase food production for a given level of land, fertilizer, energy, and related factors; and provide an opportunity for feeding the hungry. Changes in tax laws have eliminated some incentives to donations of food.

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