“There are children starving in Africa!” is a go-to way to shame diners for not finishing their plates. Of course, this logic is a bit strained. After all, there are over 16 million children regularly suffering from hunger in the United States, too. And how, exactly, does eating the last bite of that cheeseburger fix either of those problems?
Even though it doesn’t, directly, the underlying sentiment — that wasting food has far-reaching consequences — does carry a lot of weight. When consumers waste food, they not only waste their own money, but apparently, a lot of water, too. According to a recent report, 1.3 billion tons of wasted food translates into 45 trillion gallons of wasted water. That’s enough to fill almost 70 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.
How? Irrigation depletes 70 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, with fruits and vegetables containing more water than other food products, and meat product requiring more water for production. So when we waste food, we also waste the global resources needed to produce the food. And according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “More food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other single material in municipal solid waste.”
So if your eyes turn out to be bigger than your stomach at a meal, you don’t need to think that you’re killing children in Africa — but at least be aware, there are many better things to do with extra food than throw it in the trash.