Over one-third of food in the U.S. is lost or wasted — about $161 billion worth every year — a problem that has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As Tuesday marks the first annual International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, created last year by the United Nations, experts are encouraging the public to adopt new habits to combat the issue.

Farm and factory closures, labor shortages, restaurant and hotel closures, social distancing and other safety measures upended food production and distribution, creating a litany of new food waste issues at the beginning of the pandemic. But the effects are still being felt — one in three families with kids is currently experiencing food insecurity

Not only does food waste contribute to the global hunger crisis, it also negatively impacts climate change. Food that ends up in landfills does not properly decompose, and this waste is responsible for nearly 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N.

“Prior to COVID, USDA estimated that each year, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food,” Jean Buzby, USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison, said in a news release Tuesday. “Time will tell if new food habits are here to stay,”

To help solve this problem, governments, as well as businesses, are buying excess food and redistributing it to food pantries and other places in need. In some areas, restaurants are buying bulk quantities of everyday ingredients, then selling it to their customers directly. 

But Americans can also take the problem of food waste into their own hands. Here are some ways to combat this worldwide issue. 

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