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Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017

For years now America’s numbers on food waste have been, in a word, bad. So the results from the latest release of the food sustainability index that continue to show the United States lagging in most categories may not be surprising.

The 2016 Food Sustainability Index, a report from The Economic Intelligence Unit with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (and yes, it is a group associated with Barilla the pasta maker), ranks 25 different countries in categories based around nutrition, sustainable agriculture and food waste and loss. Overall, the US came in 11th. That might not seem too bad. It’s in the top half right? Well, as Leo Abruzzese, global director of public policy for The Economist Intelligence Unit, pointed out, 11th is actually “dead last” compared to “rich, Western economies, such as the France, Canada and Japan.” “I’m actually surprised the US did that well,” he added. “I would have expected it to do worse.” You see, this is why America hates foreigners.

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As is often the narrative, the US did especially poorly when it comes to our diets and our food waste. “Around obesity, US was 19 out of 25 on overweight children, next to the bottom on physical activity, next to the bottom on undernourishment and absolutely dead last among all 25 on healthy diets, worst on sugar consumption, worst on presence of fast food restaurants,” Abruzzese was quoted as saying by Food Navigator USA. Possibly the most disheartening finding, however, was that though the US did well with regards to “food loss,” we were 21st in “food waste.” The former speaks to loss on the industry side—before it gets to restaurants and homes—whereas the latter deals with waste on the consumer end—meaning that consumers are contributing to food waste more than producers are.

The bad sustainability news does have a silver lining though. While America might rank low in many categories, we’re at least willing to admit it. “US tied for first on policies meant to address these issues,” said Abruzzese. “So, while the actual outputs were pretty poor, at least we saw evidence at the municipal level, city level and state level, whether at the federal level, USDA and others, that at least these problems seem to be recognized and there are quite a few initiatives underway.” Maybe next year we can even crack the top 10.

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