Intro to Food Waste

Discarded food is one of society’s most pervasive problems, and was recently reported to be the leading cause of “green guilt.” While consumers may feel guilty, a lot of that food gets wasted long before it makes it to their plates.

A 2012 issue paper by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) adeptly frames the increasingly popular topic and summarizes the opportunities to reduce wasted food – and money – along its journey from farm to fork to landfill.

Among the NRDC paper’s key findings:

“As a country, we're essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path – that’s money and precious resources down the drain,” says Dana Gunders, NRDC project scientist and the issue paper’s author. “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardizing farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system.”

NRDC isn’t the only group making this observation. In a recent report identifying opportunities in the area of resource productivity, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company ranked food waste as number three out of 130 areas.

It will require a collective approach by decision-makers at every level in the supply chain to increase the efficiency of the US food system.

Who are these decision-makers? The NRDC issue paper defines the key agents for change in this way:

NRDC explains that by investing in these strategies to reduce food waste, “we can reap the tremendous social benefits of alleviating hunger, the environmental benefits of efficient resource use and the financial benefits of significant cost savings”; what the group refers to as a “triple-bottom-line solution.” If everyone plays their part, in tackling food waste, there are many social, environmental and financial benefits to be harvested.