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A national study was released today that examines the relationship between food waste, diet quality, nutrient waste, and multiple measures of sustainability: use of cropland, irrigation water, pesticides, and fertilizers.
What they found: while most people want to eat better by putting more fruit and vegetables on their plates, higher quality diets were associated with higher levels of food waste.
The study, by researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, University of Vermont and University of New Hampshire, is the first to explore the links between diet quality, food waste and environment impacts.
Of 22 food groups studied, fruits, vegetables and mixed fruit and vegetable dishes (39 percent of total) were wasted most—followed by dairy (17 percent), and meat and mixed meat dishes (14 percent).
The results suggest that higher quality diets are associated with greater amounts of food waste and greater amounts of wasted irrigation water and pesticides, but less cropland waste. This is largely due to fruits and vegetables, which are health-promoting and require small amounts of cropland but require substantial amounts of agricultural inputs.
So what do they recommend? Researchers say education on preparing and storing fresh fruits and vegetables, and knowing the difference between abrasion and spoilage, is critical. Other policy efforts underway range from revising sell-by dates and labels for consistency, food planning and preparation education.
Bottom line: increasing consumers’ knowledge about how to prepare and store fruits and vegetables will be one of the practical solutions to reducing food waste.
Read the announcement on The University of Vermont’s website.
Read the full research article published online: Relationship between food waste, diet quality, and environmental sustainability