‘Food Insecurity’ and Growing Food Waste

Today’s idea: At a time of rising “food insecurity” and soaring food stamp use, a study finds Americans on average waste 40 percent of their food, damaging the environment as they grow more obese.

Food | You’ve perhaps read recent coverage of what President Obama and others call rising hunger across the land, with food stamps now helping to feed one in eight Americans. Now try to wrap your mind around this study of Americans’ profligate food waste.

According to The Economist, the report crunches national figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to present a rare look at the overall problem. First, the researchers calculated the nation’s caloric intake, then compared that figure with national food production, modified for imports and exports. As the magazine reports:

They found that the average American wastes 1,400 kilocalories a day. [Kilocalorie is another word for food calorie.] That amounts to 150 trillion kilocalories a year for the country as a whole — about 40 percent of its food supply, up from 28 percent in 1974. Producing these wasted calories accounts for more than one-quarter of America’s consumption of freshwater, and also uses about 300 million barrels of oil a year. On top of that, a lot of methane (a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) emerges when all this food rots.

But then wouldn’t all that uneaten food mitigate obesity? Think again, The Economist says: The researchers “suspect the wastage they have discovered and America’s rising levels of obesity are connected. They suggest what they call the ‘push effect’ of increased food availability and marketing is responsible. The upshot is more food in the waste-bin, as well as more in the stomach.” [Economist, PLoSOne] (12.01.2009) http://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/food-insecurity-and-massive-food-waste

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