Americans Will Waste Nearly 312 Million Pounds of Food This Thanksgiving


Americans Will Waste Nearly 312 Million Pounds of Food This Thanksgiving

November 9, 2023

312 million pounds of food. That’s how much food Americans will waste this Thanksgiving. That’s the equivalent of wasting over ten pounds of food for a ten-person dinner. And Thanksgiving has always been a holiday of abundance – after all, the traditional symbol of the holiday is the cornucopia, or “horn of plenty” – but this leads to more food waste than any other meal throughout the year. This waste affects our planet, our communities, and the economy. How? Let’s break down the numbers.

First, let’s take a look at the environmental impacts that will result from this amount of wasted food. Roughly 103.6B gallons worth of water will be wasted this Thanksgiving. If you’re having trouble visualizing that, it’s about 156,980 Olympic-sized swimming pools. As we face a global water crisis, the amount of water it takes to grow our food should be top of mind before we waste it.

As for the effect on our collective carbon footprint, this year’s amount of food waste will contribute significantly to emissions. This wasted food is responsible for an estimated 710k metric tons of CO2e, which is equivalent to driving your car 73,109 times around the Earth’s equator. While this is a decrease from last year’s emissions, it’s still a major contribution to the emission of greenhouse gas, especially for a single day.

Looking at the financial aspects of this food waste, about $2.08 worth of food will be wasted per person this holiday. While that may not seem like a lot at first glance, that’s over $20 per ten-person dinner, and when the entire American population is taken into account, it’s about $608 million dollars. Not only is that a lot of wasted money, but it’s about a 35% increase in money wasted from 2022. With inflation and the cost of living on the rise, it’s a data point that consumers should be mindful of when they go shopping for Thanksgiving.

When we consider the total 312 million pounds of food that will go to waste, those are just some of the implications. 312 million pounds of food could feed 38.3 million food insecure people seven times over. As we prepare to gather with our loved ones and eat our shared meal, we should give thanks for all that we have and make the most of it. Food is a valuable resource, and we shouldn’t waste all that goes into preparing it.

Want to learn how to be less wasteful this Thanksgiving? Check out these tips:

ReFED is a national nonprofit working to end food loss and waste across the food system by advancing data-driven solutions to the problem. ReFED leverages data and insights to highlight supply chain inefficiencies and economic opportunities; mobilizes and connects people to take targeted action; and catalyzes capital to spur innovation and scale high-impact initiatives. ReFED’s goal is a sustainable, resilient, and inclusive food system that optimizes environmental resources, minimizes climate impacts, and makes the best use of the food we grow.

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