Cornhusker Economics

By Hanin Hosni and Konstantinos Giannakas

The portion size of common food items consumed at home, restaurants and fast-food establishments in the United States (US) has increased since the 1970s, with the portion size of meals and beverages in several restaurants exceeding the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration recommendations. Portion size has continued to grow in parallel with increasing body weights and food waste. According to USDA, 35% of the US population suffers from obesity while 40 million people are food insecure. At the same time, about 1/3 of the US food supply goes unconsumed, with 2/3 of food waste occurring within the household and the remaining 1/3 occurring in retail stores and food services. The restaurant service sector wastes up to 10% of purchased food before it reaches the final consumer and 21% of the food served in restaurants is not being eaten. Food is the single largest component ending up in landfills accounting for 22% of municipal solid waste, which is an important source of greenhouse gases emissions that cause climate change.