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$25 Trashed per Month in Family Food Wasted

PHOTO: The average American throws out about 20 pounds of food a month, which ends up costing $300 to $500 a year. Photo credit: John Michaelson
PHOTO: The average American throws out about 20 pounds of food a month, which ends up costing $300 to $500 a year. Photo credit: John Michaelson
March 13, 2013

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Imagine tossing about $25 into the trash can every month. It happens in Maryland and across the nation as Americans throw out about 20 pounds of food every 30 days. It goes bad, or there are too many leftovers.

Strategies exist to reduce waste, said Jon Foley, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, such as paying closer attention to "sell-by" dates. Menu planning aligned with portions can help, too, he said, along with a change in shopping habits.

"Try to shop a bit more frequently and maybe less volume," he said. "For example, having a small market near your house for things that are more perishable, like milk and eggs and meat and that kind of thing."

The average family discards between $300 and $500 worth of food per year, he said, with the biggest losses in meat and seafood.

Wasting food isn't just a household pocketbook issue. Foley said there's an international component to consider. Food production takes resources, most notably water. Hunger is a life-and-death issue for some in America, and more commonly, in other countries.

"We've spent billions and billions of dollars trying to get crops to grow faster, to improve yields - and globally, crop production has only increased about 20 percent in the last 20 years, despite all those efforts," Foley said. "And here's 40 percent of the world's food, that is sitting around rotting."

Not all waste is the consumer's fault," he said. "Food is also lost in production, shipping, restaurants and markets.

More information on food waste is online at nrdc.org and worldhunger.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD