According to the USDA, 40% of our food worth an estimated $161 billion was never harvested, lost in processing, thrown away in restaurants and homes or ended up rotting in America’s landfills. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, 50% of our produce is never consumed and a more recent report from ReFED has 126 billion pounds of wasted food annually – a financial waste of $218 billion. Put another way, food loss in America exceeds one third of our defense budget.
What data these and other studies have missed is the food grown… and lost… in millions of home and community gardens.
In 2015 and again in 2016, AmpleHarvest.org conducted a study with more than 2,500 gardeners nationwide asking two key questions: how much more food do you grow than you can use (i.e. is there food waste) and would you be willing to donate the excess to a nearby food pantry if you had the opportunity (i.e. would you turn what might have been wasted food into a charitable donation)?
The results far exceeded what we could have ever expected. The amount of home grown food that is not consumed is large enough to change the calculated national food waste totals. On the bright side, the number of gardeners willing and able to donate produce could change the national statistics on hunger in America.