Open the fridge in most North American homes and you’ll find an array of products. Generally speaking, the healthier the person or family, the more produce there will be in the fridge. And though a full and colourful crisper may be correlated with a healthier diet, it’s also been linked to more food waste, according to a new research from the USDA, the University of Vermont and the University of New Hampshire.
The study collected data on food intake, waste and agriculture to determine that the average American consumer wastes 422 grams of food, or roughly a quarter of their diet, every day. That’s nearly a pound of food waste per person, per day! Pulling back the curtain further on our wasteful habits (Canada wasn’t a part of the study, but we should pay heed), the research revealed that it takes some 30 million acres of cropland to produce the amount of food that will be wasted by American eaters in a year.
The fact that our culture wastes food is no surprise–we have garburators in our sinks for crying out loud!–but the sheer amount of it is shocking, as is the fact that healthy eaters are among the worst wasters.
Of the nearly two dozen food groups studied, it was fruits, veggies and mixed fruit and veggie dishes that were wasted the most (39 per cent), then dairy (17 per cent) and then meat and mixed meat dishes (14 per cent). Diets rich in fruits and vegetables also require more irrigation water and pesticides, but less cropland.
“Higher quality diets have greater amounts of fruits and vegetables, which are being wasted in greater quantities than other food,” said Meredith Niles, a co-author of the study from the University of Vermont, in a statement. “Eating healthy is important, and brings many benefits, but as we pursue these diets, we must think much more consciously about food waste.”
The research serves as a wakeup call to those who have been making a healthy choice for themselves and their families, but perhaps, in doing so, doing further damage to the planet. Acknowledging that North American culture has a food waste problem is a good first step–only then can it start to change its shopping, cooking and eating habits to address the issue.
Avoid expired fruits and vegetables piling up in the fridge by popping into a grocer every few days rather than doing a big shop once a week and hoping you’ll be able to eat four zucchinis. Food and meal delivery services are also useful for busy folks, as they drop off perishable produce that has been strategically portioned.
If you’re looking for more ways to keep your crisper clean, check out these tips to cut down on food waste.