We often hear about the sheer volume — in billions of pounds — and the economic value of the food that is wasted in the United States each year. Just recently, a group of researchers put a nutritional value on that unused food as well.
An estimated 1,217 calories are lost every day per American citizen, and these aren’t just any calories. A study conducted by John Hopkins University identified these to be healthy calories containing substantial amounts of key nutrients such as vitamin D, fiber, and potassium.
The study, recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, pointed out that many Americans are not getting the recommended intake of nutrients such as dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. Approximately 14 percent of U.S. households suffered from food insecurity in 2014.
Meanwhile, up to 40 percent the food supply is wasted postharvest. The researchers noted that perishable foods, such as dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and seafood are lost at the highest rates. These are nutrient-dense foods that play a vital role in healthy diets.
The research dove into each specific nutrient and what food group contributed most to the loss of that nutrient. Wasted dairy products, for example, caused the most calcium loss, representing 72 percent of total calcium loss. Dairy was also the top source of lost vitamin D, contributing just over half (53 percent) of the waste for that vitamin.
Not all wasted food can be saved, but some of it could be put to good use, whether it is consumed or utilized in another way. The USDA and Environmental Protection Agency have set a goal to reduce food waste by 2030.
To learn more about the study, read the paper, “Wasted food, wasted nutrients: Nutrient loss from wasted food in the United States and comparison to gaps in dietary intake.”