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Hard data is still being collected, but experts at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit in Chicago this week said an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of the food produced in the world goes uneaten.
The average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month -- about $40 worth -- according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which plans to publish a report on food waste in April.
In a year, that means each person throws away almost 400 pounds of food, the weight of an adult male gorilla.
Experts say reducing waste is a simple way to cut stress on the environment while easing pressure on farmers, who will be called on to feed an expected 9 billion people around the world in 2050, versus nearly 7 billion today.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said 33 million tons of food waste hit landfills and incinerators in 2010, the largest solid waste product in the system. EPA has launched a program to address the issue.
Experts from EPA and other groups have floated a variety of recommended fixes. They say clarifying "sell by" and "use by" dates could help consumers avoid throwing food in the garbage too soon. Some food could be "rescued" and used in soup kitchens, while certain leftovers could be used as animal feed.