Americans Think They Don’t Waste Much Food, but Are Totally Off-Base, Study Says

A new study from Johns Hopkins University compared our perception of food waste with reality, and found that we’re way off
Staff Writer

This is kind of like when your mom used to ask if you’d cleaned your room: No one wants to admit to the messes they make. 

If you think of yourself as an eco-friendly American, you probably recycle, compost, and assume that the huge waste problem in our country is somebody else’s fault. But chances are you’re contributing to the problem. According to a new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the average American family wastes $1,365 to $2,275 of food annually, but more than one-third of survey respondents (1,100 people) say that they don’t throw food away at all, or throw away very little.

Since Americans waste about one-third of the food we produce every year, if the respondents were entirely accurate with their self-assessments, that would mean the rest of us guilty Americans must throw away an extremely sizable portion of our groceries.

The good news is that the survey also found widespread awareness of and concern for the issue of food waste — but we are still in denial. Three-quarters of respondents said that they waste less food than the average American.

“The findings suggest that many consumers perceive themselves as being already-knowledgeable and engaged,” researchers wrote. “This research also suggests opportunities to shift retail and restaurant practice, and identifies critical research gaps. There is a need to sharpen our messages about food safety and freshness in order to expand acceptability of those foods that may be less attractive or nearing their expiration dates but are unlikely to be hazardous, while avoiding waste prevention messaging that could increase food safety hazards.”


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