Jan 9, 2024 - News

Food waste increasing in Pennsylvania

Estimated Pennsylvania food surplus, by sector
Data: ReFED; Note: Manufacturing and food service surplus estimated at the state level from national data; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Pennsylvania tossed out 2.89 million tons of surplus food in 2022 — the bulk of which came from residential households, per data from the nonprofit ReFED.

Why it matters: Food waste makes up nearly a quarter of municipal landfill input and contributes to 6.1% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

  • It also takes a bite out of our wallets. A person wastes $759 on uneaten food each year, on average.

Driving the news: Uneaten and unsold food ticked up 3.6% in the Keystone State between 2016 and 2022, per ReFED.

  • Residential waste accounted for approximately 57% of the state's uneaten or unsold food in 2022, followed by the food service industry (nearly 16%) and manufacturing (13%).

The big picture: Across the country, people and businesses let 88.7 million tons of food go uneaten or unsold that year.

  • That's equivalent to nearly 145 billion meals worth $473 billion.

Zoom in: The largest share of Pennsylvania's food waste went to landfills — nearly a third — followed by composting and incineration.

🧠 Be smart: Share Food Program and Philabundance are leading food waste prevention efforts in Philly.

What they're saying: Britt Korn, coordinator for Share Food Program initiative, tells Axios that further cutting down on food waste in Philly could help reduce the city's high level of food insecurity.

  • "It's all about keeping good food within neighborhoods and keeping good food out of the trash," she said.

What you can do:

  • Store food properly.
  • Freeze food to extend its freshness.
  • Dedicate a day each week for eating leftovers.
  • Understand the meaning behind date "best by" labels.
  • Plan your meals before buying groceries.

Methodology: Food surplus refers to food uneaten or unsold by people and businesses.


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