The Student News Site of Elkhart High School

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The Student News Site of Elkhart High School

The PENNANT Online

The Student News Site of Elkhart High School

The PENNANT Online

The Problem With Food Waste In America: Wasting Precious Food And Precious Resources.

The Problem With Food Waste In America: Wasting Precious Food And Precious Resources.

Food waste in America is a major problem. 

There are many detrimental ways in which Americans contribute to food waste: Some people simply don’t save their extra food scraps, some overbuy and overestimate their food needs, and some may misinterpret the expiration date of their products–not to mention all the waste in the commercial restaurant industry.

Nevertheless, one point is for sure: Millions of tons of perfectly consumable food is wasted every year.  

McKenzie Hager, a senior at Elkhart High School, explains: “Per day, I would say that my family wastes around 3 pounds of food,  just because we do have food that spoils. We do try to eat it before that happens, but sometimes our leftovers will go bad or get too old to eat.”

In comparison, Ashley Ochoa, a freshman studying sustainability at Indiana University Bloomington, estimates that her family of seven wastes about “300 pounds” of food annually. 

These numbers may seem inaccurate, but they make much sense after a bit of research.

Professors at Pennsylvania State University conducted a study using data from 4,000 households across the U.S. to gain a more accurate measure of how much food is wasted. One of the professors remarks, “‘More than two-thirds of households in our study have food waste estimates of between 20% and 50%. However, even the least wasteful household wastes 8.7% of the food it acquires.’” 

Furthermore, the Federal Drug Administration states, “In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30–40 percent of the food supply…Food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills.” 

Learning this, it is evident that the U.S. has a serious problem—especially considering that, on top of the waste, it was estimated that in 2022 around 17 million U.S. households struggle with food insecurity. Furthermore, food production takes vital energy and water usage, so when perfectly good food gets thrown away, those resources go to waste, as well. 

Ochoa remarks, “At I.U., I’ve learned that the process of making, handling, and transporting food all creates and expels carbon emissions into the atmosphere.” 

As Ochoa mentions, food waste contributes to global warming because it exacerbates the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Food production, storage, and transportation all create carbon emissions. Additionally, when food piles up in landfills, a powerful greenhouse gas called methane is produced as the organic matter decays. 

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Agriculture states, “The EPA estimated that each year, U.S. food loss and waste embodies 170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (million MTCO2e) GHG emissions (excluding landfill emissions)–equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants. This estimate does not include the significant methane emissions from food waste rotting in landfills.”

Climate change and agriculture are both intertwined since climate change has increased the amount of flooding and extreme weather patterns all over the world–therefore, impacting farming. Thus, Americans need to band together to stop the waste. 

Some ways to limit food waste include saving leftovers, limiting portion size, and donating to local food banks. 

Hager expresses, “I normally try to reduce my food waste by always eating leftovers and packaging food. I feel bad throwing stuff away because someone could always eat it. Same thing with my family,” she continues. “If we make a really big meal, then we’ll eat it for lunch the next day or eat it for dinner. Last night, my mom made a lot of food and told me to take it to my dad. So, we try to share our food with others.”

People can also use their food scraps for composting. 

“In Bloomington, there used to be a service called EarthKeepers Compost Collection Services that would collect food waste from local homes and businesses to use in their compost,” Ochoa expounds. 

Similarly, there have been other services like Green with Indy and Earth Mama Compost popping up all over Indiana. Composting is for everyone, however, and people can easily start a composting bin of their own at home where they can add all types of foods, such as apples, bananas, bread, coffee, dairy products, etc., instead of throwing them away. Composting is a great solution, as it creates a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can be used in gardens and on the lawn. 

(For more information on starting a composting bin, click here.)

In America, food has become plentiful. It has become so easily accessible in grocery stores and restaurants that people have forgotten how much of a luxury it truly is. This has caused Americans to waste excessive amounts of their food, contributing to the millions of tons of food that end up in landfills and adding to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, people must find alternatives to create a less wasteful, more sustainable future for the country.

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About the Contributor
Elena Krueper
Elena Krueper, Managing Editor and News Editor
Elena is a senior this year and has been a reporter for The Pennant since August of 2021. She has a deep passion for all things biology-related and she hopes to use her writing to spread awareness about the climate crisis, teach others about sustainability, and encourage teen activism. Elena hopes that by recognizing the failures of the past, the youth of today will be able to create a more sustainable future for generations to come. Outside of reporting, Elena strives to make climate-friendly changes in her community through her school’s club, Society for a Better Earth, as well as by dedicating her time to a Climate Recovery Resolution. When she’s not writing, Elena enjoys hiking, playing guitar, and spending time with her dogs.

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