Wasted Food is a Wasted Opportunity

Food scraps on table. Reduce food waste and save money! The average household wastes $370 per person, per year!

You reach into the fridge and realize you forgot to eat those leftovers from the meal you made a few days ago. Then you notice the loaf of bread on the counter is past its expiration date. So you toss them. Your favorite restaurant prepped ingredients for more meals than were sold that night. They threw the extra ingredients in the trash at the end of the evening. We may not think twice about tossing these items, but when we all do it, it really adds up to a huge amount of food waste.

Prior to the pandemic, Feeding America estimated that 10% of households in Dane County were food insecure, meaning they had limited or uncertain access to adequate food. While the pandemic brought extra food benefits for a time, the fact that those benefits have ended means more families will now be struggling to put food on the table. Access to adequate safe and nutritious food is essential for both individual and population health. In Public Health, we work to support a healthy food system and reduce food insecurity in our community, and one piece of that puzzle is reducing food waste. 

Food waste is an issue across the country, including right here in Dane County

Food waste is a major issue in Dane County, across the United States, and around the world. Feeding America estimates that 38% of all U.S. food, representing 149 billion meals, goes uneaten each year. That’s a tough fact to swallow. 

In our community, it’s estimated that about a third of the waste in the Dane County landfill is from wasted food and other organic material like eggshells and apple cores. Experts think nearly half of this wasted food comes from the food industry, like restaurants and grocery stores, but the other half comes from people and their households. We can all do better. 

Why is food waste a problem?

There are a lot of reasons to be concerned with food waste:

  • Wasted food is wasted opportunity. When food is unspoiled and safe to eat, it can be redirected to people in need, helping reduce food insecurity and improve health in our community. 
  • Wasted food is wasted money. With food, gas, and housing prices skyrocketing in recent years, throwing away food affects our wallets. The average household wastes $370 per person each year on food that goes uneaten. 
  • Wasted food impacts our economy. Food waste contributes to the rising costs of operating food businesses like groceries and restaurants, and those costs are passed on to consumers. 
  • Wasted food impacts our environment. Rotting organic material in landfills takes up a lot of space and is a large contributor to the production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas with more than 25 times the global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide. 

We all play a part in reducing food waste

Now is the time to start thinking about ways to reduce food waste and changing our behaviors. We’ll explain how in our next blog post. Make sure you don’t miss it! Sign up now to get our blog posts right to your email.

This content is free for use with credit to Public Health Madison & Dane County .

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