By Charlyn Fargo

Do you waste food?

All of us do. How about those vegetables you purchased for a salad that are still in your refrigerator? Or those grapes that you thought your kids would eat, but they’re still there? Or the leftovers that you thought someone would eat, but they end up in the disposal?

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants Americans to be more cognizant of food waste. He recently announced a goal to cut the amount of food that Americans waste by 50 percent by 2030.

The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on Earth, so too much of this food goes to waste,” Vilsack said.

Vilsack likened the effort to reduce food waste to the anti-littering campaigns of the 1960s and ‘70s that shamed Americans for tossing trash out car windows. “This is the logical extension,” he said. “This is the next litter campaign.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans waste 133 billion pounds of food every year, or 31 percent of their overall food supply. Vilsack said other nations waste similar amounts and the U.S. must lead a global effort to use food more efficiently.

This is an opportunity for us to make a statement and provide leadership,” he said.

The massive waste is a problem not just because the food could feed the hungry but also because it ends up in landfills and affects the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Some 21 percent of all the waste in landfills is food, according to EPA Deputy Administrator tan Meiburg. Once it is there, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas, Meiburg added.

Vilsack toured a facility in Long Island City, Queens, operated by the nonprofit City Harvest, which started in 1982 as an effort to salvage excess food from restaurants. City Harvest now takes donations from businesses and farmers and delivers it to 500 food banks and soup kitchens.

Look for more on Vilsack’s campaign. He’s on a mission to cut food waste by educating consumers about how long to keep food before it must be thrown out. To help consumers, USDA has a new mobile app, called FoodKeeper, that tells consumers how long certain foods can be kept safely.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service ( and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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