Daily cost of consumer food wasted, inedible, and consumed in the United States, 2001-2016.Nutr J. 2020 04 20; 19(1):35.NJ
Consumer food waste in the United States represents substantial amounts of wasted nutrients, as well as needless environmental impact from wasted agricultural inputs, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts to reduce food waste at the consumer level are urgently needed to address the most prominent nutrition and environmental sustainability issues we now face. Importantly, individuals report that saving money is a salient motivator for reducing food waste, yet contemporary evidence on the consumer cost of wasted food is lacking. The objectives of this study are to 1) estimate the daily per capita cost of food wasted, inedible, and consumed 2) at home and away from home, and 3) by food group.
This study utilizes cross-sectional, nationally-representative data on food intake from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2001-2016), linked with nationally representative data on food waste from published literature, as well as data on food prices and food price inflation from multiple publicly-available sources. Survey-weighted procedures estimated daily per capita expenditure on food waste for 39,758 adults aged ≥20 y.
Total daily per capita food expenditure was $13.27, representing 27% wasted, 14% inedible, and 59% consumed. The greatest daily food waste expenditures were observed for meat and seafood purchased for consumption outside of the home ($0.94, 95% CI: $0.90-0.99), and fruits and vegetables purchased for consumption in the home ($0.68, $0.63-0.73).
The most cost-effective ways to reduce food waste at the consumer level are to focus waste reduction efforts on meat and seafood purchased for consumption outside of the home and fruits and vegetables purchased for consumption in the home. A number of strategies are available to help consumers reduce their food waste, which can increase their financial flexibility to purchase more healthy foods while simultaneously reducing environmental impact.