From Farm to Landfill: Food Waste in America

by Mickey Huff
Published: Last Updated on

Food waste in America has gotten way out of hand according to Karim Chrobog of YES! Magazine. Chrobog writes that 40% of all food in the country is never actually eaten, but instead sent to giant landfills to rot. The United States uses 80% of its water, 50% of its land, and 10% of its energy for agriculture, yet Americans waste 40% of all the food grown. Even worse, often the food is not being wasted because it is inedible, but because it is not aesthetically suitable to be served or sold. We as a society have become quite picky about the types of fruits and vegetables we eat. We choose the best looking ones we see at the market which, in turn, causes the markets to accept only the best looking produce from farmers and suppliers.

The fact of the matter is that the less aesthetically pleasing produce is just as good in quality and nutrition. This action causes a ripple effect in which the farmers, food delivery companies, and distributors now have to get rid of food that they cannot sell. With the cost of shipping, keeping food refrigerated, and the cost of gas to transport food that is now deemed as garbage, it has become more cost efficient to just dispose of said food. At the same time, markets and farmers sometimes put shorter “sell by” or “use by” dates on their produce and as a society, we have learned to believe that those dates represent the end all and be all of when the food will expire and is no longer safe for consumption.

Given this massive issue regarding food waste, an organization called “Food Cowboy” has been created to essentially take those unappealing looking foods and bring it to food banks to be used to feed the population that cannot otherwise afford to pay for the food at the market rate. It would make sense that restaurants should just donate to similar organizations to alleviate a third party from doing all the work, but, unfortunately, businesses are afraid of being liable for donating food that they believe can harm the health and safety of someone. Due to this strange stigma, many do not bother to donate the leftover food they cannot sell regardless of The Good Samaritan Act that would protect them from any liability of donating leftover food.

The issue of food waste might not make it to many corporate news pages let alone the front page, but fortunately Yes! Magazine has reported on this important issue. Interest has been growing about the subject and there are now books and websites that explain the problems with expiration dates. The food waste issue has even been mentioned by Pope Francis at a speech he gave in Rome, 2013, where he stated, “…wasting food is like stealing from the poor.” Even one corporate media network took note of this issue. Al Sharpton of MSNBC reported about it in “Inside America’s food waste problem,” where he highlighted a case of two individuals who tried to live off of food that would otherwise have been thrown out. The topic of food waste is crucial as the global population swells and climate change impacts our environment. Even though this issue has gotten some attention, it has not made it to top priority status in major media outlets, so the majority of the public likely remains mostly unaware of this problem and what some are doing about it.


Karim Chrobog, “Can We End America’s Massive Food Waste Problem?” YES! Magazine, November 24, 2015,

Josephine McKenna, “Pope Francis says wasting food is like stealing from the poor,” The Telegraph, June 3, 2013,

Corporate Coverage:

Al Sharpton, “Inside America’s food waste problem,” MSNBC, April 22, 2015,

Student Researcher: Gabriel Gutierrez (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley