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a plate of food scraps arranged to spell "love food hate waste"

Did you know that food waste takes up more space in our landfills than anything else? According to the 2018 Wasted Food Report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste accounts for 24% –almost a quarter – of all municipal solid waste sent to landfills. The majority of this food waste comes from consumers and households. As such, the EPA has created a Food Recovery Hierarchy to prioritize strategies to reduce food waste. This hierarchy follows the 3 Rs of solid waste reduction: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Source reduction, or reducing the volume of surplus food generated, is the most preferred strategy, followed by feeding hungry people, feeding animals, using food for industrial purposes (all ways to reuse food), and composting (recycling). Sending food to the landfill or to be incinerated is the least preferred waste reduction strategy.

So, what can you as a consumer do to reduce the amount of surplus food you generate?

  • Shop your fridge first and use the ingredients you have on hand before they spoil.
  • Plan your meals and shop using a list of needed ingredients to avoid buying excess.
  • Learn how to read food labels and don’t misinterpret expiration dates on food that is perfectly good to eat.
  • Store food properly, keeping your refrigerator at or below 40 degrees F and your freezer at or below 0 degrees F. Make sure to chill perishable foods and leftovers properly by refrigerating or freezing them within 2 hours of being out at room temperature, and consume them within days. Store fruits and vegetables separately in moisture-proof bags and wash them just prior to use. Know which fruits and vegetables to store in the refrigerator and which ones to leave out.
  • Use an app like the USDA’s Food Keeper to help keep track of what is in your fridge and when it needs to be used.

To learn more about food waste, test your knowledge with this quiz from the Save More than Food campaign or watch this video featuring Ohio State University Professor Brian Roe. 

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County.

Reviewed by Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension, Warren County.


Werling, R. & Nwadike, L. (2020). Working Together to Reduce Food Waste. Kansas State University. https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF3482.pdf

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2022). Sustainable Management of Food. https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food

United States Environmental Protection Agency (2020). 2018 Wasted Food Report. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2020-11/documents/2018_wasted_food_report.pdf

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