In 2019, more than a third of the food produced in the U.S.—worth around $408 billion dollars—wasn’t sold. While a small portion was donated, much of it went to waste. But by the end of the decade, the government aims to cut food waste in half. It’s a complex challenge, as waste happens at every step of the food system, from produce that isn’t harvested on farms to food forgotten in fridges.
A new website from the nonprofit ReFed shares the data in detail and maps out potential solutions. At restaurants, for instance, because portions are typically so large that diners leave food on the plate, shrinking portions could divert 2.4 million tons of waste a year, avoiding 11.5 million tons of CO2 emissions and saving $9 billion. At homes, meal kits are a surprisingly effective way to reduce waste, with the potential to divert another 1.75 million tons of waste because home cooks have precisely the right amount of ingredients on hand.
At grocery stores, new technology to help better plan demand can help, along with apps that alert shoppers about sales on food just before it’s about to expire. For farms, “ugly produce” companies can create demand for vegetables that would otherwise go unharvested. Nationally, new tracking technology can help better route produce around the country so that food with the shortest shelf life goes the shortest distance. And the list goes on.