Although we know that Canadians are offenders too, Chris and I could not fail to notice on our trip through the heartland of the country on our way to Arizona, how Americans waste food. We have noticed that for years and many people talk about it. Yet this wastage is getting worse, not better.
As Vaclav Smil noted in his book Numbers Don’t Lie,
“the United States’ per capita food waste increased by 50% between 1974 and 2005 and that problem has gotten worse since then.” He also calculated (he loves numbers remember) that this wasted food in America was enough to provide adequate nutrition to about 230 million people which is slightly more than the entire population of Brazil, the world’s sixth largest country!
Even as Americans waste food at such a horrific pace they still eat too much. So do wel. I acknowledge my own sins here. We have also noticed that on our journey. We have never asked for so many doggy bags nor shared more meals than we did on this trip. And sad to say, we still eat far too much too. As Smil said,
“Yet even as they waste food, Americans are still eating far more of it than is good for them. The prevalence of obesity—defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater—more than doubled between 1962 and 2010 rising from 13.4 percent among adults over age 20…among adults, 74% of males and 64% of females have an excessively high weight. Most worrisomely, as obesity is usually a lifelong condition, that proportion is now above 50 percent for children above the age of six as well.”
Food loss causes other problems too. For example, it involves a significant waste of labour and energy consumption. We are paying a big price to put food in the landfill or composters. Indirectly, as a result too much plastic is produced for food containers and even inputs into food production. Extra food production leads to harming the environment by producing too much inputs such as fertilizers. The environmental effects of food wastage, including effects on climate change, water wastage, soil erosion, and unnecessary contamination of rivers and lakes are enormous.
Rich countries such as Canada and the United States, and many others should do much better. We should produce less food and consume it with a lot less wastage. Instead of looking for ways to produce more, we should be looking for ways to consume more smartly waste less. According to the UK Waste and Resources Action Program, a dollar invested in food waste prevention has a 14-fold return in associated benefits.
Can’t we use the money?