Are you aware that 40% of all food in the US goes into the landfill? Did you know that 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth in food is wasted in the US? Consumers are the largest wasters. It is no surprise that fruits and vegetables are among the top foods that go to waste in the US.
Supermarkets lose $15 billion a year in unsold fruits and vegetables. Up to 40% produce is lost because shoppers cull the produce looking for the perfect fruits and vegetables. They often pass on produce with blemishes or those that look ugly. The perception is if a shopper sees a few pieces of fruit on the shelf, something must be wrong with it. On the other hand, if shoppers see a scarf on sale with only one left, they quickly snatch it up.
Consumers also contribute to food loss when they buy or cook more than they need and choose to throw out the extras. Americans are impulsive in their food purchases. They buy more than they need or purchase food they will not actually eat. And,they underutilize leftovers.The average American family of four throws out $1600 a year in produce. More than 80% of Americans discard perfectly good, consumable food simply because they misunderstand expiration labels. Sell by, use by, expires on, best before,andbest by are confusing to consumers. To not risk food borne illness, they just throw away food.
When it comes to storing produce, avoid washing fruits and vegetables until ready to use/eat them. However, if your family will consume more fruits and vegetables if they are within reach, you could keep lettuce or berries rinsed and ready to eat if that works best for your family. Consider keeping fruits and vegetables where they can be seen in the fridge and on the counter as a daily reminder to eat them. That way they will not get lost in the back of the fridge. One way to avoid produce such as soggy lettuce is to buy fruits and vegetables in all forms because each will have a different shelf life and, in the end, you should end up with less food waste. Start with a game plan. When it comes to meal preparation and planning, think of it as saving time not taking time to plan lunches and dinners.And,do not forget to include some servings of fruit and vegetables.
Food waste could be limited if consumers would match their shopping habits with eating habits and eat what they bring home.
Sources:CDC, www.fruitsandveggies.org,, Produce for Better Health Foundation, USDA, Recycle Track Systems, The Washington Post, and LSU AgCenter.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture