Consumer support of food waste solutions: new study

https://www.psu.edu/news/agricultural-sciences/story/consumer-support-food-waste-solutions-focus-agricultural-economists/

“When it comes to reducing food waste, consumers most favor solutions that involve making food donations easier and establishing standards for food date labels.

That is one finding of a study — among the first to examine support and perceived effectiveness for popular food waste solutions — led by an agricultural economist in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The average U.S. household wastes an estimated 32% of purchased food, translating to $240 billion in economic losses, according to Linlin Fan, assistant professor of agricultural economics.

“This large amount of food waste is cause for concern,” she said. “Food waste increases food insecurity by decreasing global and local availability of food, tightening the food market, elevating food prices, and using natural resources unsustainably to harm future food production.”

Other problems associated with food waste, she pointed out, include the loss of resources used to produce food — such as water, land and labor — and costs associated with the disposal and treatment of discarded food.

Several pieces of legislation, including the Food Recovery Act of 2017, the Food Donation Act of 2017, the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill and the Food Date Labeling Act of 2019, have provisions aimed at cutting food waste in half by 2030, focusing on waste at retail and household levels.”

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652621040774?via%3Dihub

Citation: Fan L, Ellison B, Wilson NLW. What food waste solutions do people support? J. Clean. Prod. 2022;330:129907. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.129907

Also, see 5 tips to reduce food waste from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP):

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “[r]educing food waste presents opportunities to: 

  • Address climate change; 
  • Increase food security, productivity and economic efficiency; and 
  • Conserve energy and other resources.

In the U.S., 30 to 40 percent of the food supply is never eaten, wasting the resources used to produce it and creating many environmental impacts. Food waste is the single most common material landfilled and incinerated in the U.S. 

More than 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from landfilled food waste result from activities prior to disposal, including production, transport, processing, and distribution.1 In order to reduce these emissions, we need to prevent food waste from being generated in the first place.”

Source: US 2030 Food Loss and Waste Reduction Goal. Available at: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/united-states-2030-food-loss-and-waste-reduction-goal#:~:text=The%202030%20goal%20aims%20to,the%20retail%20and%20consumer%20levels.

Finally, see the below article from Civil Eats, which highlights a new food waste report published by the U.S. EPA titled From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste: Part 1 (November 2021).

Stopping Food Waste Before It Starts Is Key to Reaching Climate Goals

Excerpt:

“While rescuing wasted food gets all the headlines, a new EPA report shows that avoiding it completely offers bigger benefits.”

“According to a report the agency released last month [November 2021]—the federal government’s first attempt to quantify the amount of food wasted in the U.S. as well as the emissions it creates—the problem is enormous. The researchers found that about 35 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted, and before it even gets to a landfill, that waste results in annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 42 coal-fired power plants.”

“That comparison number is really staggering,” said Nina Sevilla, a program advocate who works on food waste at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), especially because it does not include methane emissions that occur when wasted food decomposes in landfills.

A second report the agency expects to release this spring will tackle that part of the chain, analyzing the impact food has once it’s thrown out and the efficacy of disposal solutions such as composting and anaerobic digestion. But splitting the problem into two parts made sense “to emphasize prevention” in a space where food rescue and reuse gets much more attention, said Shannon Kenny, the senior adviser for food loss and waste in the Office of Research and Development at EPA and a lead author of the report.

And unlike other environmental issues that depend on the small proportion of the population involved in food production to make changes, the researchers found that this problem can be best tackled on a broad level at America’s dinner tables.

“That comparison number is really staggering,” especially because it does not include methane emissions that occur when wasted food decomposes in landfills.

“[The report] really reinforced both what we believe about prevention being critical, and about households and restaurants being important places to focus,” said Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED. “Where we have the opportunity to make design decisions to prevent waste, I think we should pursue them.” Those decisions could include reducing portion sizes in restaurants or standardizing sell-by dates so home cooks don’t throw out perfectly good foods.”

Published by greengrass50

My name is Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RDN. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist with expertise in environmental nutrition, food and nutrition policy, food and nutrition security, food justice, chronic disease prevention, regenerative & organic agriculture, and sustainable healthy dietary patterns. Currently, I serve on the Editorial Review Board and as a Column Editor for the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. I live in Bogota, Colombia with my husband, two teenagers (boy-girl twins), and our dog Honey. My website is: www.sustainablerdn.com. You can follow me on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/cmccullumgomez/

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