The vast majority of Americans are paying attention to reducing food waste with the oldest being the most cognizant, according to a Food Literacy and Engagement Poll conducted by Michigan State University (MSU), East Lansing, Mich.

The fourth wave of this poll, conducted Jan. 15-21, surveyed 2,090 Americans on their attitudes and knowledge of food issues.

The majority of all Americans (88%) say they take steps to reduce food waste at home. This includes 94% of consumers age 55 and older and 81% of those under 30 years old.

Among respondents who make efforts to reduce food waste:

  • 71% said they try not to purchase excess food.
  • 71% said they often consume food before it spoils.
  • 34% share excess food when possible.

Of the 12% of Americans who say they do not take steps to reduce food waste at home:

  • 31% say they do not waste food.
  • 23% are not familiar with the term "food waste."
  • 21% do not know how to reduce food waste.
  • 20% are not concerned about it.
  • 18% do not have the time.

This fourth wave of the survey revealed that 41% of Americans correctly recognize that 31-50% of the food annually produced in the United States goes to waste, including 44% of those age 55 and older and 36% of those under 30 years old.

"Older Americans pay the closest attention to limiting food waste compared to their peers," says Sheril Kirshenbaum, co-director of the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll. "Previous waves of the survey have revealed this group also performs best on general food literacy questions."

Additional survey highlights include:

  • 48% of Americans say they never, rarely or aren't sure how often they consume genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • 49% say they never or rarely seek information about where their food was grown or how it was produced, with an additional 15% responding once a month.
  • 41% would be willing to buy a GMO-derived fruit or vegetable that stayed fresh longer than currently available produce.

"These findings continue to expand our insights into the attitudes and behaviors of consumers," says Doug Buhler, poll co-director and director of MSU AgBioResearch. "Given the challenges ahead in feeding more people while preserving our natural resources and protecting our climate, getting a handle on the causes and remedies of food waste is key to meeting global food demand. It takes months to produce food, but we can waste it in an instant."

Data from the MSU Food Literacy and Engagement Poll were weighted using U.S. Census Bureau figures to ensure the sample's composition reflects the actual U.S. population.