Food Waste, What is it?

With the holidays fast approaching family and friends will be gathering together to catch up, enjoy each others company, and, of course, eat.

This is no surprise since eating together is common across cultures. However, this is also the time when an excess of food is prepared, consumed, and thrown out. The problem of food waste arises in times like the the holidays.

So, what is food waste and how does it affect your family?

USDA Food Waste Definition

According to the USDA food waste is defined as the amount of edible food that is thrown away for any reason (The Journal, 2016). Some of these reasons include:

  • Plate waste
  • Food that is past its prime or that is bruised or blemished
  • Mold
  • Inadequate or incorrect storage
  • Cooking Loss
  • Confusion with labels such as sell by, use by, and best by etc.

Why should we care?

Food waste effects many areas of our lives including the environment, the economy, and society (Re-fed, 2014). To see a visual of how each area is effected by food waste see info-graphic below. All statistics were taken from the 2016 Journal of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the 2014 report from the USDA on food insecurity.


Food Waste from Farm to Fork

In addition, food waste occurs on all levels of food production (The Journal, 2016)

  • Farms
  • Harvesting
  • Processing/Transportation
  • Retailers
  • Us (Consumers)

For the purposes of this blog I will be focusing on the consumer food waste because it’s the largest contributor to food waste in this country and it’s something we can all work on this year.

The next blogs will be about the solutions to food waste, teaching food waste to children, ways to reduce food waste this holiday season, re-inventing Thanksgiving leftovers, and composting basics.


Vogliano, Chris, Brown, Katie. “The State of America’s Wasted Food and Opportunities to Make a Difference”.  Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vol. 116, No. 7,  2016, pp. 1199-1205
Food Waste in America“. Society of St. Andrew: Gleaning America’s fields-Feeding America’s Hungry,, Accessed 19, Oct. 2016.
Gunder, Danas. “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40% of its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill”. Natural Defense Research Paper, August 2012, Accessed 29, Oct. 2016.
“USDA and EPA Join with Private Sector, Charitable Organizations to Set Nation’s First Food Waste Reduction Goals”. Department of Agriculture, 2015, Assessed 29, Oct. 2016.

For more reading: 

Rethink Food Waste through Economics and Data. Re-fed, 2016, Accessed 19, Oct. 2016.
Save the Food.Natural Resources Defense Council and Ad Council, 2016, Accessed 19, Oct. 2016.