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Myth: Donating enough food aid to feed the world would cost Americans’ billions

TRUTH:  Many people assume that if the U.S. government supplies more food to starving Americans or other nations, it would cost taxpayers billions per year.  However, what we really need to do is take a long hard look at how we use food at home.  A recent study published examined the food waste in America – and the results are appalling.  Americans are so wasteful that if everyone (ok, let’s be honest, if most people) could make small changes at home, we could change the dynamic of food on the planet.

There are two main points that should be made to refute this myth:

1. Food waste in America – We should be ashamed.  Seriously.  Here’s why:

  • Food is the largest form of solid waste in landfills.
  • An average family of four in American throws away about $2,275 of food per year.
  • Just a 15% reduction in food waste would feed 25 million Americans annually.  There are 20 million Americans starving, including children.  I’m not a mathematician but clearly, we have the ability to feed everyone in this country.
  • Americans discard about 40% of their food, which totals $165 billion annually.

2. The cost of feeding others – The U.N.’s World Food Program is the largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger in the world.

  • The U.N.’s World Food Program spent only about $1.25 billion last year, which pales in comparison to our waste.
  • They are entirely funded by voluntary donations and in 2011 they raised about $3.8 billion.  That’s about 2% of the cost of food that Americans waste.

BOTTOM LINE:  Food isn’t just wasted by individuals but also by corporations and food service operations.  Everyone should take responsibility to do his or her part to better plan, store and prepare food to reduce waste.  Rather than spending billions to feed the hungry, a small shift (reducing only 15% of our food waste) could have a tremendous impact on the world’s food supply without costing you a penny.

I’m not saying we could feed everyone merely by cutting our waste.  Some experts estimate that it would cost about $500 billion per year to feed all of the starving and hungry people in the world.  However, we can feed everyone in the world and it doesn’t mean tax hikes and meager times for the rest of us.  Politicians need to employ creative solutions to important problems.  The food is available; let’s get it to those who need it most.



  1. The Atlantic: How 40% of our food goes to waste
  2. The New York Times: Mark Bittman, Stating the Obvious: Hunger is a Disease


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