Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 26, Issue 1–2, pp 67–81 | Cite as

An analysis of a community food waste stream

  • Mary Griffin
  • Jeffery SobalEmail author
  • Thomas A. Lyson


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 



National Solid Waste Management Association


United States Department of Agriculture


Environmental Protection Agency



An earlier version of this study was presented at the annual meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. The authors thank the community participants who provided information for this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arnot Ogden Medical CenterElmiraUSA
  2. 2.Division of Nutritional SciencesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Development SociologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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