Searching for my personal role in the solving the waste problem

Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill

Today I read Dana Gunders 2012 report on how America wastes up to 40% of its food throughout the multi-step process of production to consumption. The thing is that 40% is a very rough estimate using the best available data to extrapolate outwards. The lack of information out there is striking! It is my belief that no problem can be addressed without a decent set of data. Of course, this sparked my interest, and I began racking my brain for ways I could fill this hole.

In 1997, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) did a study and wrote a report on the amount of food loss that the country faces. This is probably the most comprehensive report out there as of now, and it’s almost 20 years old, which is pretty pathetic. One of the main issues why it’s so hard to compile data of food waste is that there are multiple stages when it moves from the beginning of its life to the consumer’s home. There are losses in production, post-harvest, handling, storage, processing, packaging, distribution, retail, and of course consumer losses that would include someone forgetting about an item in their fridge and it spoiling. All these losses contribute to what’s taken to the landfill.

It seems to me that there is great need to populate the field with more modern data. Even the government seems too discouraged to attempt a survey on what we waste. This leaves me very hopeful that I can find a way to step in to use my survey design experience and motivation to make a big change. My strengths, after all, are field research and data analytics.

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