The US discards almost half of its fresh food produce, according to new research.
Around 60 million tons of produce, worth about $160 billion, is wasted, according to government data—a third of all foodstuffs, though experts and farmers tell the Guardian the real figure is closer to half of all foodstuffs, when taking it into account vegetables abandoned in the field and left to rot because of minor blemishes.
Nearly 40% of the food supply is never eaten and 20% doesn’t end up in grocery stores, according to previous research. “It’s all about blemish-free produce,” Jay Johnson, who ships fresh fruit and vegetables, told The Guardian. “What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down. And then you are stuck.”
According to ReFED, a group combating food waste, if policymakers spent $18 billion to achieve a 20% reduction in food waste, it would create an additional 1.8 billion meals, which they say is enough to feed America’s food-insecure people three times over.
The so-called “ugly food movement” is trying to challenge food waste by putting more pressure on supermarkets. Last year, the UK’s biggest supermarket, Tesco, agreed to give away its unsold food. The supermarket had admitted to throwing away 30,000 tonnes of edible food. In France, big supermarkets were banned from throwing away edible food last year. Retailers now have to donate unsold merchandise to charities or to farms where it could be used to feed animals.