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New data reveals troubling future of America’s food problems: ‘We are not making anywhere near the progress we need to’

“A major environmental, social, and economic challenge.”

"A major environmental, social, and economic challenge."

Photo Credit: iStock

Americans wasted around 88.7 million tons of food — or 349 pounds per person — in 2022. This showed a small dip from 2021, within a larger overall increase in food waste since 2016. 

The data comes from ReFED, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending food loss and waste. Its Food Waste Monitor, updated annually, uses information from more than 80 sources

Though food waste declined compared to 2021, 2022’s numbers still represent a 5% increase in wasted food per capita since ReFED’s 2016 baseline.

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About 36.7% (32.6 million tons) of all of that surplus food was sent to landfills in 2022, representing an increase over the last three years. 

When food is thrown into landfills, that waste fuels the heating of our planet. In fact, a recent pair of reports from the Environmental Protection Agency found that 58% of the fugitive methane pollution from municipal solid waste landfills comes from discarded food. 

That’s one of the reasons the agency is trying to reduce the country’s food waste to 164 pounds per person annually by 2030. However, ReFED’s new data shows we are far behind on that goal.

According to ReFED, trimmings and byproducts accounted for 29.6% of the food waste in 2022, while excess food accounted for 24.8% and spoiled food represented another 14.9%. Nearly half of all food waste came from residential sources. This was followed by farms (produce only) (16.8%) and manufacturing (14.7%).

You can save money on groceries while helping reduce food waste by being more mindful of what goes in and out of your kitchen. One way to do this is with the help of apps like NoWaste, which allows users to track, organize, and manage the food in their homes.

You can also help keep food out of landfills by purchasing from companies like Imperfect Foods, a food delivery service that offers discounts on produce and other foods that get denied by grocers.

For its part, ReFED hopes to slash U.S. food waste in half compared to 2016 levels by 2030, as Bloomberg reported.

However, “We are not making anywhere near the progress we need to be to reach the 2030 goal,” said Dana Gunders, executive director of ReFED, per Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, EPA Administrator Michael Regan called wasted food “a major environmental, social, and economic challenge” in an agency press release about its recent food waste reports.

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