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U.S. Food Waste & Upcoming Solutions

By Nicole De Santis

In the United States food waste is a tremendous, growing issue. According to the most recent data available from the nonprofit organization ReFed, the US produced 9 million tons of surplus food in 2021, a significant increase from 2016. Uneaten food represents about 38% of the total food supply.

Environmentally, food waste in landfills significantly increases greenhouse gas emissions (GHG); but this level of food waste is also staggering considering the high cost of food and given that food insecurity is such a huge issue in the US (during 2021 the USDA estimated 33.8% of people lived in food insecure households). During this period, according to ReFed, less than 2% of food was donated, while 18% was composted, 9% recycled into animal feed and 36% went to landfills. 

The United Nations along with other stakeholders like ReFed have a goal to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030, an important but unrealistic goal considering the staggering current food waste situation. In December 2023, the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the FDA, released the "Draft National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics." The goal of this strategy is to build a more circular economy, by reducing food waste and increasing organics processing. In the end these strategies reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save individuals and businesses a great deal of money due to smarter food purchasing. 

Food Waste Stats: 

Where does the food waste come from? 

· Households 50% 

· Produce farms 17% 

· Manufacturing 15%


· Food Service 14% 

· Retail 6% 

What you can do to prevent food waste: 

· Buy or order less, plan meals ahead and only buy what you need  

· Use a food calculator to make an educated decision on food buying for holidays and events: 

· Donate leftover food from catered office events, parties, weddings etc. 

· If food is no longer usable, compost the rest!

Many Americans are finally waking up to the massive issue of food waste in our country, but there's so much more work to be done. We encourage you to do what you can to reduce food waste and food loss, at home, in the office, at school, and wherever else you encounter it.

*Need help with food donations or starting an office compost program? Contact 


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