11/19/2014 05:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reduce Food Waste to Make a Difference This Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost here -- a time to share gifts, food, and happiness with friends and family. It's also a time to remember those struggling to make ends meet. This holiday season, consumers and businesses can make a difference by reducing food waste, which helps save money, feed the hungry, and protect the environment.

2014-11-19-HuffPo1.gifThe facts are striking: Americans throw out a third of all the food we grow, harvest, and buy, costing the average family of four $1,600 every year. Not only do 25 percent of our nation's freshwater supplies go toward growing food that never gets eaten; food waste also creates 13 percent of our nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

Fortunately, there's a lot we can do to reduce the food waste that's costing our families, depleting our natural resources, and contributing to climate change.

  • Plan ahead: Before meals, especially large meals at the holidays, plan out how much food you and your guests need and stock up accordingly. EPA's Food: Too Good to Waste program offers families toolkits to reduce food waste and save time and money at the check-out line.
  • Store safely: Properly storing leftovers keeps them safe to eat longer. Using individually sized containers makes them easy to grab for another meal later.
  • Donate excess: According to the USDA, 1 out of 6 Americans struggle to put food on the table. By donating excess canned and dried foods to food banks and shelters, we can help those in need while protecting the environment.
  • Compost food scraps: Make waste work for you. Instead of throwing out scraps, composting keeps food out of landfills and provides valuable nutrients for your garden.

And before food ever leaves the shelves, businesses can play a vital role by joining over 785 organizations taking part in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge. By keeping better track of food inventories and setting food waste prevention goals, businesses can lower purchase and waste disposal costs, avoid wasted employee time, and improve bottom lines.

Major organizations are leading in this area. Disneyland, MGM Resorts International, Nestle USA, and all the teams in the National Hockey League are just some of the participants in our Food Recovery Challenge. I look forward to seeing continued success as we follow through on our obligation to protect the environment and our fellow citizens.

This holiday season, let's commit to reducing food waste so we can help feed the hungry, fight climate change, and save money. When businesses and consumers work together, we all win.