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Americans discard $1,600 in food per year — how one brand is fighting food waste

·Senior Reporter
·3-min read
In this article:
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The average American family loses $1,600 every year — just by discarding usable foods.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), up to 40% of all U.S. food goes uneaten with 87% of food waste coming from fresh vegetables, fruit and bread.

But one prominent brand is working to solve the country's inherent food waste problem.

The average American family loses $1,600 every year just by discarding usable foods
The average American family loses $1,600 every year just by discarding usable foods

Mayo brand Hellmann's, whose new 'See More in Your Fridge' campaign encourages positive behavioral change in the kitchen, revealed that New York City is the leading food waste offender, but simple tweaks can lead to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.

"Our goal with the 'See More In Your Fridge' campaign was to draw attention to not only the environmental impact but the financial loss that the average American family experiences by not having the right tools to combat food waste at home," Ben Crook, senior director of dressings & condiments at Unilever (UL), the parent company of Hellmann's, told Yahoo Finance.

"There are more options in your fridge than what you might see at first glance."

The executive went on to note that "people often do not know how to properly store fruits and vegetables, causing them to go bad at expedited rates and leading to food waste."

To help buck that trend, the brand created a four-week behavior change program, "Fridge Night," to inspire and guide people on how they can be more resourceful with food at home.

"It's a perfect tool to help consumers see more in their fridge. It teaches people tangible solutions like 'use-up days' and 'flexipes,' or flexible recipes, which helps people turn left-behind ingredients into easy-to-prepare meals," Crook explained.

Those who completed the Fridge Night program reduced the amount of food thrown away by 46%, the company said, citing a 2021 large-scale pilot study of the initiative.

Other steps Americans can take include adopting a mindful shopping routine, learning proper storage solutions, undergoing expiration label education, meal prepping, composting and utilizing all parts of a food item.

There are more options in your fridge than what you might see at first glance...Ben Crook, senior director of dressings & condiments at Unilever

'A myriad of impacts'

Food waste also bleeds into other sustainable crises, like climate change.

"They are intrinsically connected," Unilever's Crook explained.

"When we waste food, we also waste the resources it takes to create, grow, transport and package that food. This creates a myriad of impacts like increased greenhouse gas emissions and fertilizer use," he continued.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), food waste is the single most common material landfilled and incinerated in the U.S., comprising 24% and 22% of landfilled and combusted municipal solid waste, respectively.

In fact, if food waste were a nation, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the United States and China, contributing to about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Overall, Hellman's hopes its various campaigns and initiatives will help the United Nations reach its sustainable development goal of reducing food waste by 50% by the year 2030.

As part of that mission, the brand is working closely with Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic to help enact federal legislation on standardized date labelling.

Currently, date labels are not federally regulated and are one of the most common drivers of at-home waste, Crook said.

Drumming up congressional support for the bill's passage is the number one goal for the brand in 2022.

Alexandra is a Senior Entertainment and Food Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193 or email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com

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