By Mekael Teshome
What would you do if you had an extra $1,500 in your bank account at the end of this year? What if you invested that money and had $20,000 or more ten years from now?
A few thousand dollars could help you jump start your retirement fund, save for an emergency or start planning for a child’s college education. You don’t have to sell off your belongings or invest in some questionable scheme. All you may have to do is think more carefully about the food you buy, eat and throw away.
The National Resources Defense Council estimates that each year, the average American family of four throws away about $1,500 worth of food.
Globally, one-third of all food is never consumed – from farmers or manufacturers discarding unusable items, to grocery stores tossing unsold or rotten produce, to consumers throwing away unused food.
Globally, people waste about $1 trillion of food each year, with a total economic impact of about $3 trillion each year if you consider the environmental and social costs of things like deforestation, soil erosion, increased greenhouse gases, water scarcity, exposure to chemicals and reduced profits for farmers. Food waste also drives up prices, reducing the number of people who can afford the healthy food they need.
On a local scale, this food waste is a lost opportunity to help feed the food insecure – those who don’t know where or when they’ll have their next meal. When adults don’t have consistent access to healthy food, their productivity can drop, their healthcare costs can rise, and in some cases, they could be unable to work due to chronic diseases. This can mean fewer productive people in the workplace, which puts a damper on the economy.
The stakes are even higher when children don’t have access to the healthy food they need. Food insecurity can influence their physical development and ability to learn. This can have lasting impacts into adulthood and that child’s ability to participate in the workforce.
In the United States, we have a culture of plenty, meaning we don’t think we’re losing much by wasting resources – we believe we have plenty to go around. But that’s not necessarily good for our wallets – or the environment.
We know that retailers respond to consumer preferences. Right now, consumers want picture-perfect food, and that pressure extends all the way to farmers. But as consumers, we can change the way we shop, and it could have a dramatic effect on household budgets, health and the economy as a whole.
Look at it this way: if farmers and retailers can sell food that’s slightly imperfect – like a carrot that is misshapen, but otherwise normal – we can reduce waste. If we reduce waste, the price of food can be lower because there is more food available. It’s simple supply and demand.
Through my role as an economist and in my work with farmers at an agricultural college in Ethiopia, I’ve learned that consumers can help to gradually shift the culture to reduce food waste – and save some money in the process – by doing the following:
I once heard a farmer tell me there is a solution to every problem. As people create their own problems, they can create their own solutions.
Mekael Teshome is an economist at PNC Bank.
PNC Point of View
Real People. Real Perspective. Real Insights. »
These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.
This site may provide reference to Internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.
©2017 The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. All rights reserved. PNC Bank, National Association. Member FDIC.