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« Welcome, Duncan Wilson. | WILLisms.com | Pundit Roundtable »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 227 -- Wasting Food.

Taking What You Can Eat, But Eating What You Take-

I know I am sometimes guilty of this:

* The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 27 per cent of total food production in the US is wasted every year

* Timothy Jones, who conducted a ten-year study for the University of Arizona, estimates that the amount that does not get eaten is as much as 50 per cent

* A typical household wastes 14 per cent of all food purchased

* Fifteen per cent of that includes products still within their expiry date but never opened

* An average American family of four throws away meat, fruit, vegetables and grain products worth $590 (£345) a year

For me, it's difficult to buy exactly the right amount of food for the week (or sometimes longer). It's difficult to know how often eating out might happen.

I wonder what, if any, differences there are between and among generations. The generation(s) that lived through the Great Depression might be less likely to waste food, while those of us who have grown up in an era of plenty might waste more food, more often.

That's my guess, at least.

I also wonder about how the rise of women in the workplace has impacted these numbers. Less families today have full-time homemakers, whose duties include-- among other things-- running the kitchen. Busier lives and less family dinners might contribute to the wasting of food.

Finally, you have to wonder about the effects of the cheapness of food. Today, most staple foods are relatively inexpensive and readily available. Adjusted for inflation, many grocery items are actually cheaper than they were decades ago.

On the other hand, we have better storage techniques, technology, and expertise. We have better refrigeration (at every stage), better cleanliness (food workers wearing gloves, cleaning machinery, wiping down countertops with cleaning products, etc.), more efficient distribution networks (thanks to the our expanded transportation system and large box store chains), and better storage methods (air-tight plastics and single-serve packaging). We also have genetically modified and irradiated foods that last longer, not to mention more preservatives than in the past.

In other words, not everything about modern life contributes to the wasting of food. I'd be interested to learn about the rate of food wasting in the past, as well as the rate of food wasting in other cultures.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Higher Taxes = Less Tax Revenues.

Posted by Will Franklin · 26 November 2005 02:16 PM


Yeah, but you didn't take on the freegans. I tried:

This Weekend’s Unanswered Question (112605)

Posted by: Thomas Blumer at November 26, 2005 06:40 PM

The freegans are just weird.

Posted by: Will Franklin at November 26, 2005 08:20 PM

So you couple this 27% waste in food production with an increase in obesity. It's probably cheaper to buy the largest quantities on a per unit basis so if some gets wasted then so what. We have become a "grazing" population - people with more sedentary jobs spending their whole day munching at their desks while they're working. I think increased consumption (at the buying level) is probably correlated with increased waste in almost any setting. I also think our perception of what a reasonable size portion of food is has become stretched a bit if not a lot.

Posted by: DaveD at November 27, 2005 09:37 AM

When I had cafeteria duty during my teaching career, I was appalled by the amount of food thrown away by the students and by the poor nutritional choices they made. Those amounts were plentiful. The correlation between student selections of densely caloric food and the kids' incipient obesity was clear. Meanwhile, the cafeteria lunch and sometimes breakfast were the only prepared meal choices these kids had. Mom either didn't know how to cook or relied on take-out food or fast food because, after putting in a full day at work, she had neither the time nor inclination to provide a balanced meal. School cafeterias over time have succumbed to offering the kind of junk food that kids are familiar with in order to stay "out of the red" fiscally.

Posted by: onlineanalyst at November 27, 2005 02:49 PM

The real problem is left-overs, and how we either do or don't use them. I recently insisted that left-overs be consummed, and have made an effort to place these items on the table every two or three days, so as to not overwealm my kids tastebuds. Judging the amount of food to prepare has never been easy. I would rather see my children make a sandwich, because I did not prepare enough food, than throw away that left-over, after two weeks because it grew legs and was ready to walk away. I also find that I personally feel better when we eat in vs eating out. We recently moved, and were eating out a lot. The food budget, and the waistlines doubled (at least it felt like it). Now we are back to normal. I really want to stay away from take-out as much as possible, and encourage everone else to try to set a goal to do so. I realize it is much easier to stop on the way home, and pick up a couple of burgers, than it is to cook a good meal, but sometimes, you need to think of the health of your children, and yourself. Once you get done, have the kids pick up the table, place the left overs into plastic containers, and start the dishwasher, while you relax.

Posted by: frankr at November 28, 2005 08:45 AM