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Wasted food, unnecessary environmental impacts- Place-based and other approaches to reducing the 40% of US food that goes to rot
Tuesday, November 18, 2014: 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM
There has been little attention to food waste in the US until recently. This session aims to educate about wasted food including geographic variation, to describe New Orleans-based and other approaches to addressing it, and to stimulate thought about appropriate public health roles.
In the US, we waste about 40 percent of all food produced. That translates to throwing away about a quarter of the freshwater used in this country and 4% of the oil, not to mention extensive unnecessary soil erosion, water contamination, antimicrobial resistance, occupational and community health exposures, and biodiversity loss. Wasted food also means substantial unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from food production and the methane released in landfills.
Beyond the direct environmental effects of these impacts, they can also hasten food supply disruptions and shortages, leading to escalating food prices. Food security is further threatened in other ways. A household of four in the US wastes on average about $1,560 per year on food not eaten; with reduced waste they could eat that food or keep the money for other needs. Waste at the farm, distribution and retail levels discards food that could otherwise feed people, whether through sales or donations. Despite misconceptions to the contrary, most food waste occurs for reasons unrelated to safety; even food too old to eat usually could have been salvaged with better storage and/or planning.
The session begins with a broad overview of food waste in the US, and why it is an important public health issue. The second presentation addresses the gap in information about farm level food waste by describing results from a new survey. The third presentation turns to the consumer and retail level, examining the confusing use of food date labels, including significant state variation and a lack of connection to evidence regarding food safety. The final presentation examines New Orleans-based approaches that jointly reduce food waste and feed the food insecure. The session will conclude with audience discussion of the public health implications of food waste and ways the community can engage.
Session Objectives: 1. Describe the magnitude, determinants and environmental impacts of wasted food in the US, and why it is a critical environmental public health issue.
2. Describe reasons why food waste at the farm level has been difficult to measure, and discuss key reasons for this waste.
3. Discuss the impact of confusing food date labels on wastage, and the opportunity to make waste-reducing changes to consumer food purchasing, storage and usage by changing date labeling.
4. Describe two New Orleans programs working to prevent food waste while feeding those in need.
See individual abstracts for presenting author's disclosure statement and author's information.
Organized by: Environment
Endorsed by: Food and Nutrition, Public Health Nursing, Socialist Caucus
Medical (CME), Health Education (CHES), Nursing (CNE), Public Health (CPH)