Wasted: A Cautionary Tale About Abundance

The amount of food wasted in America could fill the Rose Bowl every day. In all, 40 percent of the food produced here -- including half of all fruits, vegetables and seafood -- goes uneaten. A small amount slips out of the food chain on the nation's farms, as produce that's “ugly” or past its prime is discarded. But the largest waste occurs in grocery stores, restaurants, food-service operations -- and in our kitchens.

JoAnne Berkenkamp of the Natural Resources Defense Council discussed food waste with journalists in the National Press Foundation's four-day fellowship on food and farm sustainability. Among the problems in grocery stores and home kitchens are date labels, which Berkenkamp said create confusion that causes edible food to be tossed out. Those printed numbers that we struggle to read on plastic tubs and jar lids could be the date after which a product has many good days left. There's little consistency among manufacturers and packagers, she said.

Other contributors to food waste:
*Large restaurant portions
*Home cooks who buy too much and cook too much
*Poorly organized refrigerators and an aversion to leftovers.