2023 baseline study

State of Food Waste: nationally representative study

So, we know food waste is a problem. Now what?

The first step to food recovery is answering the “who, what, when, where, and why” of wastage. Though almost half of all food waste occurs in the home, most food waste studies are too broadly oriented to provide the depth of data on household food waste patterns we need to gain a clear picture of the problem. Our goal was to address this gap through a nationwide study and survey.

In partnership with Gallup, a leader in reliable survey research, we designed and deployed a survey to measure knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors surrounding food waste in American households.

We inquired about shopping and food preparation habits, gauged the impact of different motivators on saving or wasting food, and approximated weekly waste amounts by food type.

Over 9,000 Americans from across the nation responded to our survey, with a subset of 257 additionally participating in a weeklong daily diary study in which daily waste was logged using the MITRE Food Waste Tracker App.

It’s not easy to recall what was for dinner last night, or how much was left on your plate—let alone a week ago. The daily diary sought to provide more detail and higher accuracy by tracking waste as it was generated throughout the week. Participants were asked to describe and to estimate the volume of the wasted food item, as well as to indicate where, why, and how the disposal occurred. About 1/3 of app users additionally tracked the weight of each disposal by using a Bluetooth enabled kitchen scale which paired with the tracker app. Survey and app data revealed American households waste an average of 6.2 cups of food weekly, not counting inedible food scraps like peels, leaves, and bones.

Understanding the characteristics and behaviors associated with high levels of household food waste will help to identify opportunities to divert food from landfills and allow us to better focus future resources into effective waste reduction strategies.

Defining Household Food Waste

When most of us think of “food waste,” we picture moldy leftovers and slimy spinach in a refrigerator drawer. But the reality is that much of the food we waste is safe and edible. Guided by the EPA’s definition of household food waste, this study defines household food waste as any food disposed at home via the trash bin, drain, animal feed, or compost.

Consider redirecting edible excess to families in need through food donations!

Feeding hungry people ranks among the EPA’s most preferred food recovery solutions.

Key Insights

Food waste in dump truck
The average American household wastes about 6.2 cups of edible food each week, or about 322 cups per year. Across the nation, this annual waste equates to nearly 40 billion cups, and is enough to fill over 1 million dump trucks!
Cost of food icon
81% of Americans express concern over the price of food, which is Americans’ number 1 food-related concern. Only 33% are aware that the average American household could save around $1,500 per year by not wasting food.
Stack of leftover containers
Leftover use is a critical factor linked to food waste. Those who frequently throw away unwanted leftovers waste about 12 cups of food each week, compared to 3.5 cups by those who infrequently throw away leftovers.
Growing crops
Less than half of Americans (45%) believe that throwing away food is bad for the environment, and only 40% are motivated to minimize their waste because it will by reduce their impact on the environment.

How Much DOes Your Household Waste?


Has this research left you wondering how much food your household wastes? MITRE developed a Food Waste Tracker app, available Android and iOS devices, that you can use to easily track your household food waste. Get weekly insights into your household waste patterns through visualizations summarizing your food disposals, in addition to the approximate cost-saving opportunity of better utilizing your ingredients and leftovers.

Try it out and see how you compare to MITRE/Gallup study participants!

Screen captures from the MITRE Food Waste Tracker app



Full Report

This 2023 report presents findings regarding food waste patterns across the United States, in order to serve as a baseline of national waste levels.

The State of Food Waste in America

State of Food Waste- Low Res File

Survey Data

Survey responses from n=9,259 respondents: demographics, food waste amounts, behaviors, attitudes, knowledge, state level waste estimates.

Survey Data

State Estimates

App Data & Report

User data from n= 450 participants utilizing the MITRE Food Waste Tracker App, including food waste amounts, characteristics, and disposal factors.

App Data

App Report (Pre-Print)


2023 survey questions and response options developed in partnership with Gallup and distributed to Gallup Panel members.


Pre-Survey Communication

Communication sent in the week prior to the survey as a reminder to participants to be taking note of their household’s food waste output throughout the week.

Preparation Instructions & Recruitment


Graphics depicting the state of food waste. Free for public use, with credit to MITRE | Gallup: The State of Food Waste Report, 2023.

Figures & Graphics