TAMPA, Fla. — Before you go ordering snacks for Super Bowl Sunday or just filling out that weekly grocery list, you may want to consider a brand-new study that found on average - most of us throw away about a third of the food we buy.
We all know a lot of food gets wasted, but the research from Penn State University is still hard to swallow.
Researchers found as a nation we throw away about $240 billion worth of food each year, or on average, around $1,866 per household. The average person tosses about one-third of what they buy, the study showed.
But, people like Deana Elder say very little goes to waste in her house. Not by choice, but by necessity.
Like thousands of others in Tampa Bay, Elder works for a living but relies on local food banks. For her, the numbers are difficult to fathom.
“It’s not always what it is, or about the flavor. It’s just about putting something in my belly so, I can make it. Energy so I can work,” said Elder.
At Metropolitan Ministries, they see the study as an opportunity to educate people about how much of their food budget could be redirected toward helping others.
“If we could plan better, and if we could have things packaged in a way that would really fit our needs as individual families, that is certainly funds that could be reinvested into serving others in our community through all types of different resources,” said Metro Ministries’ James Dunbar.
The study found that some of the most wasteful of us, throwing away up to half of what’s purchased, are those who try to eat healthy.
Fresh fruits, vegetables and foods without preservatives don’t last as long and often come in quantities that spoil before they can be consumed.
Tampa nutritionist Jennifer Broder suggests eating dinner leftovers for breakfast, checking the trash to take note of what we throw out a lot, and keep those perishable foods upfront in the fridge.
“Absolutely,” said Broder, “Because it’s right in front of you. You know it’s going to go bad faster.”
Another tip? The study found those who go food shopping with a list tend to buy what they need and waste less.
“So, I try to shop in smaller batches,” said food shopper Sally Dimmick, “But I’m not sure what I’m going to use. And even then, sometimes I get it wrong.”
The United Nations also says that wasting less food can help save the planet.
They estimate food waste is responsible for about 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas every year. Compare that with a country, and it would be the third-largest emitter of carbon after the US and China.
Researchers hope the study will not only help people budget smarter, but also change the way products are packaged to reduce waste, ensuring everyone has enough to eat.
“Maybe they can budget a little better than they would have enough left over to help others,” said Elder. “I mean, we can all try. If we all try, that’s what makes the world go around. You know?”
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