*America discards 40% of the food it makes, while a billion in the world go hungry. How can we stop such dire misallocation?
The world's food systems are in crisis. Droughts and flooding have compromised crop production across the globe and more than 1 billion people are hungry. But here in America, our overstocked supermarket shelves continue to propagate the illusion of plenty and, in the past decade, our rate of food waste has more than doubled.
According to a recent study, over 40% of the food produced in America is wasted each year, and only 2% of this waste is composted. Food waste is now the second largest waste stream sent to landfills, where it produces methane, a deadly greenhouse gas that further impacts climate change. Climate change, in turn, is having a deadly impact on our food supply.
One time-honoured way to reduce waste is to increase the perceived value of the goods in question. Despite the fact that food prices have increased substantially in the past few years, Americans on average still spend proportionally less than any other nation on food.
According to research compiled by the USDA, 6.9% of household spending in America was on food, compared to 13.7% in France and 45.7% in Indonesia. If we were required to lay out a greater percentage of our household budget for food, we would probably be less likely to throw it in the garbage.
Increasing food prices is a hard sell when 14.6% of American families are food-insecure. But government intervention, which leads to artificially cheap food, is wreaking havoc with the global food chain and needs to be addressed. Farm subsidies, for instance, which favour certain crops, encourage over-production and flood the market with underpriced goods. This has a devastating effect on developing countries, which cannot compete with the subsidised produce; it also has a negative impact on the domestic market, as farmers end up leaving food in their fields to rot since it would cost more to harvest than would be gained by selling it.
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