Food blog

The States Leading in Food Waste Per Capita: A Closer Look

States that waste the most food per capita

Food waste is a significant problem in the United States, with estimates suggesting that between 30 and 40 percent of the nation’s food supply is wasted (source: United States Department of Agriculture). While the nation as a whole is grappling with this problem, it’s interesting to note that not all states contribute equally to food waste. In this article, we will examine the states that waste the most food per capita, based on data from several sources.

Vermont: A Surprising Leader

According to a 2019 analysis conducted by Austin-based U.S. Packaging and Wrapping, Vermont topped the list of states with the highest per capita cost of wasted food. On average, each person in Vermont wastes approximately $1,374 in food annually. This staggering figure underscores the urgency of addressing food waste in the state.

Maine, Hawaii and Alaska: Close Behind

Vermont is joined in the top food waste states by Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska. These states also have high levels of food waste per capita, contributing to the nation’s overall problem. While the specific reasons for their high food waste rates may vary, it is clear that concerted efforts are needed to reduce waste in these regions.

Conflicting studies and different perspectives

It’s important to note that state-level data on food waste can sometimes be conflicting. Another study conducted by Hloom, a resume template company, suggests that Mississippi leads the nation in wasted restaurant meals and food. According to their 2016 study, Mississippi wastes 11.6 percent of its restaurant meals and 14 percent of its groceries.
These conflicting findings highlight the complexity of measuring and addressing food waste. Different methodologies and data sources can yield different results, making it difficult to accurately rank states on food waste. Nonetheless, it is clear that all states need to take meaningful steps to address the problem.

Reducing Food Waste: A Collective Responsibility

Tackling food waste requires a collective effort from individuals, businesses, and policymakers. Here are some strategies that can help reduce food waste at the individual and state levels:
1. Conscious consumer choices: As consumers, we can make a difference by being mindful of our food consumption. Avoid over-purchasing and plan meals to make the most of ingredients.
2. Proper storage and preservation: Properly storing perishable items and freezing excess fruits and herbs can extend their shelf life, allowing us to use them before they spoil.
3. Compost and recycle: Encouraging composting and recycling programs can divert food waste from landfills, reducing environmental impact and creating valuable resources.
4. Legislative Action: States can enact legislation that promotes sustainable practices and discourages food waste. For example, Vermont has implemented a law that prohibits food scraps from going into the trash, which has led to a significant increase in composting and recycling.

The way forward

While the states mentioned in this article may currently have higher levels of food waste per capita, it is important to recognize that food waste is a nationwide problem. Efforts to address food waste should be comprehensive and inclusive, involving all states and communities. By raising awareness, implementing effective strategies, and fostering a culture of responsible consumption, we can collectively reduce food waste and move toward a more sustainable future.
Remember, wasting food not only affects our wallets, but also contributes to environmental degradation and exacerbates global hunger. Let’s work together to create positive change and ensure that our food resources are used efficiently and responsibly.


1. Which countries waste the most food per capita?

Vermont, Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska are among the states that have been identified as the top food wasters per capita.

2. How was the food waste data collected?

Food waste data for U.S. states was collected and analyzed by several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, among others.

3. Are there conflicting studies on food waste rankings?

Yes, there can be conflicting studies on state-level food waste rankings. Different methodologies and data sources can lead to differences in results.

4. What can individuals do to reduce food waste?

Individuals can make a difference by being conscious consumers, planning meals to minimize waste, properly storing perishable items, and participating in composting and recycling programs.

5. How can states address food waste?

States can enact legislation to promote sustainable practices, such as prohibiting food waste in the trash and establishing composting and recycling programs. They can also raise awareness and provide resources to support initiatives that reduce food waste.

6. Why is it important to reduce food waste?

Reducing food waste has many benefits. It helps conserve valuable resources, reduces environmental impact, and can help address issues of hunger and food insecurity.

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