The land of the leftovers: Americans throw away 40% of their food

garbageIf you're feeling guilty for being a glutton over Thanksgiving, here's something else to chew on: We waste a lot of food.

A new study published in the journal PLoS One has found that we Americans are wasting fifty percent more food than we did in 1974. Approximately 1,400 calories worth of food per person, in fact, is thrown into the trash every day. That translates into 150 trillion calories a year. Put another way, the study concludes that the United States throws out about 40 percent of all of its food.

Which is just tragic when you think of the recent headlines. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently determined that in 2008, almost 13 million Americans didn't have enough to eat and that about 4.2 million American children went hungry last year.

Worldwide, the UN estimates that a billion people are currently going hungry.

Yet, ironically, America has an obesity problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, says that in 32 states, more than 25% of the residents are obese. Only in Colorado are there fewer than 20 percent of its residents who are considered obese.

So we're eating too much -- and throwing out too much food. And, no, I suspect the correct answer to this problem is not to eat moreand finish whatever's on our plate. Obviously, Americans' eyes are often bigger than our stomachs, so we should either be ordering or preparing less food, or perhaps inviting more people over to dinner.

The PLoS One study also determined that there's not just a moral problem with the country wasting so much food. The food that rots in garbage dumps "produces substantial quantities of methane gas," which adds to the global warming problem. There's also a lot of wasted freshwater (both in the food and used to prepare the food) that's a result of us throwing out all this food, not to mention a lot of wasted resources in general (think the gas used to transport that wasted food to your grocery store and then to your house).

However you digest these latest food statistics, if you hosted a Thanksgiving meal and made sure that all your guests departed with leftovers, you can at least feel good about that.
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