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Food Waste and Diet Quality

Americans waste nearly a pound of food per person each day, but the exact amount of food we trash differs by how healthy your diet is, according to one new study.

Between 2007-2014, U.S. consumers wasted nearly 150,000 tons of food per day – nearly a pound (422 grams) of food per person each day. Researchers estimate that food waste corresponded with the use of 30 million acres of land annually (7 percent of total US cropland) and 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water each year.

According to the study, the amount of wasted food equals roughly 30 percent of the average daily calories consumed for every American, or enough to feed more than 320 million people. Think about that. The amount of food this country wastes, could feed over 320 million people, who otherwise do not have the funds or resources for eat. “Food waste” goes beyond just wasting food.  

The researchers estimated that consumer food waste corresponded to harvests produced with the use of 780 million pounds of pesticide and 1.8 billion pounds of nitrogen fertilizer, annually. Both represent significant costs to the environment and the farmers who dedicate land, labor, and resources to producing food that’s meant to be eaten, not thrown into landfills. From the farm, food is then washed, processed, packaged, distributed etc; all of which takes time, labor, water and material.

While most people want to eat better by putting more fruit and vegetables on their plates, the study found that higher quality diets were associated with higher levels of food waste. Of 22 food groups studied, fruits, vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes (39 percent of total) were the most wasted—followed by dairy (17 percent), and meat or mixed meat dishes (14 percent).

Eating fruits and vegetables brings many benefits to one’s health and is of great importance, but as we pursue a diet rich in these foods, we must think much more consciously about food waste.

The study also found that healthier diets used less cropland than lower quality diets, but led to greater waste in irrigation water and pesticides, which are used at higher rates on average for growing fruits and vegetables. While low quality diets (those with less fruit and vegetable consumption) may produce less food waste, they come with a range of negative impacts, including low nutritional value and higher rates of cropland wasted.

Next week- tips to reduce food waste

 

Blog post provided by:
Katie Foster, RDN, LD
Clinical Registered Dietitian



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