National Academies Report on Interventions to Reduce Consumer Food Waste
Every American wastes, on average, a pound of food daily.
Consumer food waste contributes to food insecurity, unhealthy diets and climate change. Food waste also generates losses for revenue, nutrients and the inputs used to grow the food.
To better understand consumer food waste, we invested in a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report, “A National Strategy to Reduce Food Waste at the Consumer Level.” The report offers actionable suggestions that an array of stakeholders can implement to reduce consumer food waste.
According to the report, our food waste behaviors are driven by conscious and nonconscious factors that act collectively in different ways. The report suggests tools and motivations that help consumers change their habits.
How to Reduce Food Waste
The report offers three pathways that institutions, such as industry associations, schools and government agencies, can take to reduce food waste at the consumer level.
1. Change the US food environment to discourage waste by consumers. Such changes include:
- Include food waste reduction in industry certification.
- Develop and standardize sensible date labeling (“best by”).
- Implement state and local policies and financial incentives encouraging consumer behavior that prevent food waste.
- Implement change and innovation in the food industry.
2. Strengthen consumers’ motivation, opportunity and ability to reduce food waste.
- Conduct a national behavior change campaign.
- Boost messaging about food waste through influencers.
- Promote food literacy in education curricula.
3. Apply research findings and technology to support consumers in food waste reduction.
- Support research and technology to accurately measure food waste, help consumers with food waste reduction strategies and track the effectiveness of intervention strategies.
In a truly interdisciplinary way, the committee examined the intersection of the complexity of food system with factors that shape individual behavior. Reducing consumer food waste has a myriad of implications for positive change in our communities. We look forward to the impact this report will have on stakeholders and researchers.Toby Warden, Ph.D.
Board Director, Board on Environmental Change and Society, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine