It's an all too familiar story. As countries around the world battle starvation and malnutrition—with a staggering 87 percent of Venezuelans now unable to adequately feed themselves—the U.S. continues to haphazardly toss 60 million tons and $160 billion of food in the trash each year.
According to a new and highly depressing report from the Guardian on Wednesday, food waste has reached such shameful heights in 2016 that roughly 50 percent of American produce ends up in landfills one way or another. And while food waste is an issue that's become increasingly important to the public over the years, with lawmakers now promising to take legislative measures to curb the problem, the practice of discarding edible produce is now a deeply engrained component of farming, shopping, and living in America.
“There are a lot of people who are hungry and malnourished, including in the US. My guess is probably 5-10% of the population are still hungry—they still do not have enough to eat,” Shenggen Fan, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, told the Guardian. “That is why food waste, food loss matters a great deal. People are still hungry.”
The reasons for the country's addiction to food waste feel particularly nonsensical and far-reaching. While some fresh produce is fed to cattle, fruits and vegetables are often taken directly from farms to landfills or left to rot on the vine because of a “cult of perfection.”
The "ugly produce" trend has been gaining steam in recent months, with celebrities like Beyoncé getting in on the movement with their products, but blemished food still has an incredibly difficult time making it to markets. And even when grocery stores do accept a farm's fruits and vegetables, a large amount of edible food ultimately gets tossed out by stores.
"It’s all about blemish-free produce,” Jay Johnson, a man who ships fresh produce from North Carolina to Florida, told the Guardian. “What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down. And then you are stuck.”