MITRE-led study links food waste in US to climate change

Visual Representation of Food Wastage | Credits: Reuters
Visual Representation of Food Wastage | Credits: Reuters

United States: A recent study directed and funded by the MITRE Independent Research and Development Program has revealed the link between food wastage and climate change. The study was developed in partnership with Ohio State University, World Wildlife Fund, ReFED, Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic.

According to the reports, the study surveyed households in all states of the United States, and the findings were based on the highest and lowest average levels of household waste.

Food waste – a big problem in the US

Various researches have underlined that food wastage is a serious concern in the United States. The US Department of Agriculture last month stated that 2022 had reported the largest increase in food insecurity hunger in a period of more than a decade. It also stated that millions of Americans were unable to eat in 2022, as compared to 2021.

Visual Representation of food wastage | Credits: Flikr

How are climate change and food wastage relatable?

The study has also found that food waste is relatable to climate change. While elaborating on the process, the experts noted that methane gas is released by rotting foods. It is to be noted that methane is counted as a greenhouse gas, which makes it one of the driving forces behind global warming.

Visual Representation of relationship between food wastage and climate change | Credits: LinkedIn

Interesting facts revealed by the survey

  • In the average American household, around US$ 1,500 per year can be saved if food waste is eliminated – accordingly, this fact is just known by thirty-three percent (33%) of Americans. This was revealed along with the fact that food price is the most common concern among eighty-one percent (81%) of US households.
  • Protein is known to be the most expensive as well as impactful food category. The study revealed that out of the total, ten percent (10%) of waste is protein.
  • The majority of the wasted food is fully safe and edible.
  • Health risks are a major concern in approximately one out of ten households in the United States is health risks associated with eating leftovers – which leads to wastage of more food.
  • The study claimed that households with higher levels of income, higher levels of education and lower age are responsible for more food wastage. Furthermore, it was revealed that the houses with children tend to waste more food per week, i.e., 8.5 cups, as compared to those without children.

States that contribute the most and the lowest!

According to the study, the maximum household waste was collected from Arkansas, Maryland and Illinois and the lowest average food waste was reported from Wyoming, Idaho and Maine.

How do we reduce food wastage?

According to the data shared by ReFED, the ultimate source of food waste is households. Therefore, the US Environmental Protection Agency shared ten ways to reduce food waste at home, which are:

  • Properly plan for the upcoming meals and make an appropriate list for each week
Visual Representation of food wastage reduction
  • Adopt proper techniques for the storage of fruits, vegetables, proteins, herbs and condiments – which can result in maximum freshness, better taste and longer shelf life. The study also noted some ways for food storage; accordingly, the veggies that may wilt should be stored in a refrigerator drawer with high humidity. Fruits that may ripen the other food items must be stored away. Additionally, it was noted that the condiments must be stored at the doors of the fridge – the warmest part.
  • Be careful while making a shopping list; only add those items that will be required to make the planned dish. It further emphasized that quantities must be highly considered.
  • According to the study, eating leftovers, which aren’t spoilt, is one the most effective strategies to reduce household food waste.
  • An individual must learn the difference between ‘best-by,’ ‘use-by,’ and ‘sell-by’ and expiry dates. This small amount of information can help reduce food waste and create new meals – which can come in the lists of favorites.
  • Don’t wash berries, cherries, and grapes just after bringing them – wait until you are ready to eat them. This will prevent mold.