Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 67-81

First online:

An analysis of a community food waste stream

  • Mary GriffinAffiliated withArnot Ogden Medical Center
  • , Jeffery SobalAffiliated withDivision of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University Email author 
  • , Thomas A. LysonAffiliated withDepartment of Development Sociology, Cornell University

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Food waste comprises a significant portion of the waste stream in industrialized countries, contributing to ecological damages and nutritional losses. Guided by a systems approach, this study quantified food waste in one U.S. County in 1998–1999. Publications and personal interviews were used to quantify waste from food production, processing, distribution, and consumption. Approximately 10,205 tons of food waste was generated annually in this community food system. Of all food waste, production waste comprised 20%, processing 1%, distribution 19%, and 60% of food waste was generated by consumers. Less than one-third (28%) of total food waste was recovered via composting (25%) and food donations (3%), and over 7,000 tons (72%) were landfilled. More than 8.8 billion kilocalories of food were wasted, enough to feed county residents for 1.5 months. This case study offers an example of procedures to quantify and compare food waste across a whole community food system.


Community Food Waste Food system Environment Energy Compost Food security