Story at a glance

  • Food waste costs the average U.S. household more than $1,800 annually and $240 billion nationwide.
  • The study claims 30 to 40 percent of total food supplies go uneaten.
  • The least wasteful households wasted about 8.7 percent of food.

Households in the United States are throwing away large amounts of food, and it is costing big bucks, according to a new study. 

New research published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, found the average U.S. household wastes close to one-third of the food it acquires. The study says on average it costs each household about $1,866 a year, for a total of $240 billion annually nationwide. 

Researchers looked at data from 4,000 households that participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey. They were able to gather personal data like metabolic rates from occupants of individual households to find out how much food households bought versus how much they required. 

“Our findings are consistent with previous studies, which have shown that 30 to 40 percent of the total food supply in the United States goes uneaten,” the studies author and Penn State agricultural economics professor Edward Jaenicke said in a press release

“That means that resources used to produce the uneaten food, including land, energy, water and labor, are wasted as well,” he said. 

The study claims more than two-thirds of households wasted between 20 percent to half of all the food they purchased, while the least wasteful households wasted about 8.7 percent of its food. 

Higher-income households and healthier households eating more produce put out more waste. Meanwhile, poorer households and bigger households were found to waste less food. 

The study also found households with a plan for what to buy when visiting the grocery store wasted less, and homes located farther away from supermarkets were more efficient as well. 

Published on Jan 24, 2020