Posted: March 2, 2020

Researchers find a way to cut costs without cutting corners to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake bay.

American households waste, on average, almost a third of the food they acquire, according to economists in the college who say this wasted food has an estimated aggregate value of $240 billion annually. Divided among the nearly 128.6 million U.S. households, this waste could be costing the average household about $1,866 per year.

"This study is the first to identify and analyze the level of food waste for individual households," said Edward Jaenicke, professor of agricultural economics.

Jaenicke and Yang Yu, doctoral candidate in agricultural, environmental, and regional economics, analyzed data from 4,000 households that participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey.

"Based on our estimation, the average American household wastes 31.9 percent of the food it acquires," Jaenicke said. "More than two-thirds of households in our study have food waste estimates of between 20 and 50 percent. However, even the least wasteful household wastes 8.7 percent of the food it acquires."

The team found that households with higher income generate more waste, and those with healthier diets that include more perishable fruits and vegetables also waste more food. Household types associated with less food waste include those with greater food insecurity--especially those that participate in the federal SNAP food assistance program, previously known as "food stamps"--as well as those households with a larger number of members.

Jaenicke said, "We hope our methodology provides a new lens through which to analyze individual household food waste."

--Chuck Gill