It’s the most wasteful time of the year: the impact Thanksgiving has on food waste

This year, close to 400 million pounds of food will be discarded on Thanksgiving.

This year, close to 400 million pounds of food will be discarded on Thanksgiving.

Sarah Carpenter

BY SARAH CARPENTER (’20)

Each year in November, Americans all over the country begin to purchase heaps of green beans, potatoes, and turkey in preparation for Thanksgiving, the largest and most iconic meal of the year. 

Although the Thanksgiving meal is the most anticipated meal of the year by many, the abundant dinner has a darker side that many do not think to acknowledge. 

Each year, Americans waste approximately $165 billion worth of food, $239 million of which is wasted on Thanksgiving turkey alone. Around 200 million pounds of turkey, 150 million pounds of vegetables and 14 million pounds of assorted bread rolls will be discarded after the meal, uneaten and wasted.  

Uneaten and wasted food is also the single largest occupant in landfills across the country, with roughly 50%, or 60 million tons, of produce being thrown out. 

The large mass of food waste within landfills does not go unnoticed by its surrounding environment. With the increasing amount of food waste also comes a demand for more landfill space, which is a large contributor to habitat loss for several animals. 

With approximately one in eight Americans going hungry each day, wasting food is extremely careless. The uneaten food waste should be put in the hands of hungry Americans, rather than being carelessly discarded.

With food waste becoming a problem that an increasing number of Americans have to face, it is time that we become more conscientious with the amount of food we purchase, consume and discard.

Before loading up your shopping cart, carefully plan beforehand the quantity of food necessary for the meal, as doing so will reduce the number of leftovers. For cooked dishes, consider buying “imperfect” produce, as such items are usually wasted by grocery store otherwise.

You can also request that guests to bring along containers to take home leftovers, as doing so will reduce the chances that food will not be eaten. 

Any canned food that would otherwise be discarded should also be donated to local food pantries, and doing so will combat both food waste and hunger across the country.

Although seemingly small, these minor changes will help America become a less wasteful country, and lead to the betterment of the country as a whole.