If the United States is the wealthiest nation on earth, why are still so many of its citizens going hungry every night? According to a 2014 USDA study, 17.4 million households were food insecure, that’s 14 percent of all households in the U.S.

Congressman Jim McGovern joined Boston Public Radio to talk about how minimizing egregious food waste could help end food insecurity in this country.

“40 percent of all the food we grow here is never eaten,” said McGovern. Every year farmers across the U.S. and the world throw out portions of their crops that do not meet the high standards of supermarkets. “The consumers in this country tend to be pretty finicky when they go to buy things at the grocery store. We look for the perfect apple that looks like it came out of Snow White. As a result of that, often times apples or tomatoes or potatoes that are not perfect in every way are discarded,” said McGovern.

Having the discarded crops transported to food banks and shelters can be very costly, so the majority of farmers opt to throw the bounty in landfills instead. In addition to wasting tons of edible food, these landfills produce hazardous pollutants like carbon dioxide and methane.  

“ We need to figure out a way to build an infrastructure in this country to recapture some of that waste,” said McGovern.

Food continues to be wasted once it arrives at supermarkets and homes. Arbitrary dates and labels cause people to throw out massive amounts of food despite the food being edible, says McGovern. “That’s Most of the food that is discarded by supermarkets,” said McGovern. “We are talking about food that is perfectly good to eat and is nutritious.”

McGovern believes that by reducing our food waste we could lower the number of food insecure people in the U.S. from the current number of 50 million people. “There is a lot we need to do and I think we ought to have a national discussion,” he said.