WASHINGTON - In the run-up to Thanksgiving, a holiday to celebrate bountiful harvests, Americans are being urged to stop wasting food so much.
Some 34 million pounds (15.4 million kilograms) of food is thrown away in the United States every year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said Friday.
That represents 21 percent of all food produced, harvested and purchased - food that is worth an estimated US$1.3 billion (S$1.7 billion), at a time when one in six Americans face hunger.
The EPA launched a social media campaign this week to draw attention to the link between food waste and greenhouse gases produced when unwanted food ends up in landfills.
Such waste is a significant source of methane, which the EPA on its website says has "21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide." "There are actions that individuals and businesses can take to protect the environment," EPA assistant administrator Mathy Stanislaus told reporters.
The typical American family of four, he said, could save US$1,600 a year by reducing their food waste.
On Friday the federal government agency teamed up with prominent Washington area chef and restauranteur Cathal Armstrong, who demonstrated how ingredients that a homemaker might throw away can be put to good use.
Trashcan is last resort
"The trashcan is the last, last, last resort," said the Irish-born chef as he whipped up a lobster bisque in a kitchen adjoining an ongoing exhibition about food around the world at the National Geographic museum.
While 40 percent of food waste comes from households, 60 percent originates from businesses and institutions, such as restaurants, food retailers and hospitals.
Armstrong, who oversees four successful restaurants and published a cook book earlier this year on Irish food, said an eatery that wastes food is almost sure to go under.
He lamented the failure of culinary schools to teach aspiring chefs the economics of using every ingredient to the maximum extent possible.
"For the most part, chefs have to learn (how not to waste food) themselves," he said, as he stripped a lobster and put the typically undesired bits into a simmering pot.
"It's shocking how many people come to me knowing how to make stock, but they don't know why we make stock," he said, adding by way of advice: "Never be without stock." The National Geographic Society is currently looking at food from all fronts, from its "Food: Our Global Kitchen" exhibition and "Eat: The Story of Food" TV series to the December issue of its iconic yellow-bordered magazine.