Study Reveals The State That Wastes The Most Food

In November 2021, the United States Environmental Protection Agency published a report on the environmental impact that food waste has in the country. They noted that the United States promised in 2015 to halve its waste by 2030, but has made no significant progress. The most effective method, they concluded, is through preventative measures, not waste management strategies like composting.

A more zoomed-in picture was given by a separate report compiled by LawnStarter in the same month. Using a series of metrics that included the share of wasted food, the amount of food that goes to food banks, and the amount of food that is recycled, they ranked the states from most wasteful to least. States in the fourth, third, and second spots respectively were Nevada, Hawaii, and North Dakota. No theory was offered as to why North Dakota, in particular, wasted so much food; however, Hawaii and Las Vegas, Nevada, are both tourist destinations. A large portion of what these two states do is prepare lavish meals for guests, which as often as not get left only partially eaten.

Food is not fated to be wasted though. In 2018, the Las Vegas Review-Journal covered how buffets reduced waste by 40% by using smaller plates. And in 2021, Yale Climate Connections highlighted the efforts of Hawaiian food rescue organization Aloha Harvest, which mobilized during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdowns to ensure that the food bought by restaurants and other temporarily closed businesses would not go to waste. Aloha Harvest distributed the food to hungry families instead.

The most wasteful state attempts reduction

According to LawnStarter, the state with the worst food waste is Arizona. While they refrain again from speculating why this state has such an issue, they do note that organizations like Imperial Western Products do their best by reusing food destined for landfills.

However, Jeff Herman, a spokesperson for the company, did tell the Phoenix New Times that "[i]t seems like there's a little bit less consciousness in Arizona. It's residential, restaurants and in the fields." That lack of consciousness sends more than 78% of food to the landfill.

Working against the growing landfill is Waste Not, an Arizona nonprofit that combats food waste. As Fox News wrote in October 2021, Waste Not collects food from businesses that failed to use up their stock and delivers it to other nonprofits that feed starving families. Similarly, Patch reported on January 8, 2022, that Phoenix included in their 2050 Climate Action Plan a pledge to reward "[the] use of local, healthy foods by local businesses." Pledges alone will not reduce food waste but a recognition that the city's food systems need an overhaul is a step toward a more sustainable vision. Now, they need action.