Our society wastes food at every point in the food chain from farms and gardens to home kitchens, restaurants, supermarkets, food service companies, and large institutions like universities that feed thousands of people daily. Last December I was astonished to lean about the extent of food waste at the MD Food Recovery Summit organized by the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Surplus food is the term used to describe unsold and unused food, like crops that don’t go to market because prices are too low, perishable items tossed into supermarket dumpsters, and groceries and restaurant meals bought and not eaten.
- 35% of all U.S. food went unsold or unused
- 23% of all surplus food is fruits and vegetables
- Only 15% of Maryland’s 900K+ tons of food waste was recycled
Why it’s a problem:
- Huge economic and environmental costs of producing surplus food
- 1 in 6 U.S. residents are food insecure. Surplus food can feed hungry people
- Surplus food is the #1 landfill material (24% of landfill space)
- Food waste in landfills generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas that can trap 28X as much heat/mass unit as CO2
- The value of wasted food at the consumer level is $161 billion/year