Food Waste in the Food System

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Food Waste is an interesting issue that plays a major role in the food systems around the world. It is an ongoing problem for food systems because of all the factors which contribute to the amount of food that goes to waste on a yearly basis. The food system is complex, and this makes it difficult to track just how much food is going to be wasted every year. From the consumer’s perspective on food waste to the cafeteria’s around the world, food waste is a significant element of the food system. The focus of this paper is to look at various factors that surround how food is wasted and determine a possible course of action to reduce such waste.

The term "food waste" can be defined any number of ways, but for the purposes of this research endeavor we can define it as food that is thrown out that could have been eaten.1 This is an important distinction from other forms of the definition because it allows for more clarity when looking into the food system. On the consumer level, the United States are responsible for over a third of all wasted food, per the NRDC 2012.1 This is not necessarily a surprising fact considering the U.S. is one of the worlds leading developed countries. However, this is a reality very few Americans know about due to the poor efforts made to reduce food waste awareness. In a study from the International Journal of Consumer studies, it was found that several obvious factors contributed to food waste when in the context of household food. This included: poor pre-shopping planning, in-store behavior, food date labels, meal planning, etc.1 These factors directly correlate to the reasoning behind how consumers view the problem of food waste. From the study they discovered that many of the people in the study consistently overestimated the monetary value of food.1 Essentially stating that, while they are aware of the environmental impacts of food waste, they still believed certain foods to have greater value versus others. Overall, the participants seemed to have a good grasp on the idea of food waste, yet a great amount of food still gets wasted even on the most basic level of the food system which is the household.

Taking a step up, food waste also plays a major role in the organizational setting of the food system. Grocery stores, local markets, restaurants, and other large retail environments create a whole mess of food waste that contributes to the food system for several different reasons. These organizations create food waste for reasons such as, "cosmetic imperfections, overstocking, over-purchasing, damaged packaging, toxic or unsafe foods, or past ??sell-by’ dates."2 Particularly, grocery stores and restaurants, both create the most amount of food waste because they have standards which must be upheld and then there is the so-called "consumer waste" factor which also plays a role. In 2008, it was reported that $47 billion worth of food was wasted in the U.S. from the likes of grocery stores and other retail environments.2 This number shows how much food was wasted over the course of a year in the U.S., and how big a part food waste plays in the entirety of the food system.

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Food Waste in the Food System. (2021, Mar 10). Retrieved May 18, 2024 , from

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