What's At Stake
Up to 40 percent of the food in the United States is never eaten.
Households toss limp vegetables. People are confused by food date labels. Restaurants often serve massive portions and trash leftovers. Grocery stores overstock their shelves to maintain an image of abundance. Farmers are unable to sell produce that doesn’t look perfect.
At the same time, 1 in 8 Americans struggles to put food on the table.
Most wasted food ends up in landfills, where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
Our groundbreaking research has shed light on the amounts and types of food going to waste in three cities and identified opportunities to redirect surplus food to those in need. Through in-depth community engagement, such as through our Nashville Food Waste Initiative and Food Matters work, NRDC is helping cities plan and implement creative approaches to prevent food from going to waste, increase food rescue, and recycle food scraps.
At the federal level, we advocate for sensible food date labeling and greater support for food donations. We also offer practical solutions to address the vast amount of food wasted in the restaurant, retail, and institutional food service sectors.
Wasted food is a problem we can solve. By keeping good food from going to waste, NRDC is helping fight climate change, conserve our natural resources, and build vibrant, resilient communities.
Support This Work
Reporting, expert commentary, analysis, and more.
The annual cost of food waste for a household of four
The number of pounds of food that’s thrown out per person every year
The number of meals that could potentially be donated every year from consumer-facing businesses in New York, Nashville, and Denver
The amount of the food we throw out that ends up in landfills, where it emits methane and contributes to climate change
The value of the food wasted by food-based businesses, such as restaurants, grocery stores, and food service providers
The profit that businesses could make each year by adopting strategies like food waste tracking and analytics, sizing portions correctly, and improving inventory and cold chain management
The percentage of 1,200 business sites in a World Resources Institute report that earned a positive return on investment for their food waste reduction efforts
If the food wasted around the globe were a country, it would have the third-highest climate footprint on the planet, behind only China and the United States.