Americans waste 40% of the food they buy

Everyday across the country Tons of spoiled, rotten or unappealing food is being thrown away. Image credit: AP video screen grab.

(AP) - Everyday across the country Tons of spoiled, rotten or unappealing food is being thrown away.

Decades of cheap, plentiful food have left Americans with a carefree attitude, and the consequences are piling up.

"Food waste is a staggering problem. We've got about 40 percent of the food that is provided in the United States is never eaten," said Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Money that's literally being thrown away.

"If you are a family of four, you are wasting 1500 dollars of food every year and it is roughly 10 cents of every American dollar spent on foods. So we are talking big dollars,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

The Environmental Protection Agency says food produce is the single biggest single source filling up American landfills.

Last fall the federal government kicking off a campaign to fight the massive waste, with a goal of cutting it in half by 2030.

And people are starting to take notice.

"It is kind of frowned upon to waste food, so I think people are really changing their mindsets," said David Joffe, Assistant Director of Nourish Now.

In suburban Washington, the nonprofit group Nourish Now is seeing an uptick in food donations as well as increasing demands from food insecure people.

"Every day we get almost a thousand pound of recovered food, all food that would typically get thrown out. So, we are going to restaurants, catering companies, cafeterias, bakeries - any place that might have food waste and we are diverting it from the landfill," said Joffe.

In Chicago, the group Zero Percent turned to a high-tech solution to divert produce from the dumpster, using smart phones and drivers to connect food donors with recipients.

"So, a supplier says, 'we have 15 sandwiches that are available between 2-4 p.m. today. That goes into our system. Step one: it is matched with a need that has already been established in the community," said Raj Karmani, Founder and CEO of Zero Percent.

The group is already planning to expand operations into other cities.

A key factor in the staggering amount of waste is confusing expiration dates on food - leading too many to adopt 'when in doubt - throw it out.'

Democratic lawmakers are proposing a federal bill to simplify food labels.

"To clarify and simply and standardize the labels including the dates on food, so that people know what it means for there to be peak quality and what it means that food is unsafe to eat," said Senator Blumenthal.

The congressional efforts giving an extra push to divert healthy food destined for landfills, helping feed the hungry and saving the environment and money at the same time.

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