Food waste is bad — bad for food security, bad for the economy, and bad for the environment. Current numbers estimate that 40 percent of the food that is grown in the United States is eventually thrown out, up by about 50 percent from the 1970s. That food waste costs the country about $161 billion dollars a year, and contributes to climate change, as food that winds up in landfills ends up decomposing and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the short term.
When presented with these facts, most people agree that food waste is a problem — a 2013 Sustainable America poll found that a majority of Americans believe that eliminating food waste at farms and restaurants is one of the best ways to increase food availability throughout the country. But the same poll also found that most people tend to pass the blame when it comes to food waste, underestimating their own contribution to the problem.
A new campaign, launched by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council, hopes to make the issue of food waste personal for American consumers. The campaign, dubbed “Save The Food,” debuted Wednesday at the Food Tank’s 2016 D.C. summit, a two-day conference of food policy held in Washington, D.C. A short video that accompanies the campaign shows the life of a strawberry throughout the entire supply chain, from field to supermarket and, ultimately, to the trash.
The issue of food waste has gained an increasing amount of national attention in recent months, with Whole Foods announcing that it would begin piloting a program to sell misshapen fruits and vegetables — normally wasted due to their displeasing aesthetic appearance — in a handful of their California stores. There is also currently legislation before Congress, introduced by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), that would address a number of food waste issues, such as misleading expiration dates and the need for more food waste research funding.
“Most people are horrified to think we waste so much food in this country,” Pingree said during a keynote speech at the Food Tank Summit on Thursday. “Lets stop food waste. Farmworkers put a lot of work into those strawberries that get thrown out.”