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Food Waste deprives the hungry and fuels the air with methane




A box of food scraps that will be composted sits at the Norcal Waste Systems transfer station April 21, 2009 in San Francisco, California.
A box of food scraps that will be composted sits at the Norcal Waste Systems transfer station April 21, 2009 in San Francisco, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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In a National Geographic feature story, author Elizabeth Royte deplores the amount of food the United States wastes. She says that more than 30 percent of our food, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. But, Royte says, recognizing this fact can allow for the opportunity to innovate ways of feeding people in need. In the U.S. alone, 49 million people are officially “food insecure.” That is, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

Beyond ameliorating the plight of the hungry, conserving food waste could help the environment as well. Royte says food buried in the airless confines of dumps generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. She also says if global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest generator of greenhouse gases in the world behind China and the United States. What are ways we could repurpose extra food? What kind of organizational shift would it take? Is it worth the effort?

Guest:

Elizabeth Royte, author of "The High Cost of Food Waste" on Nationalgeographic.com and an expert on food waste. National Geographic has launched a multi-year initiative focusing on food and how to feed a growing world population. Comprehensive coverage including a free iPad app, video, maps, photos and interactive graphics can be found at  natgeofood.com.