This City Will Waste the Most Food on Thanksgiving

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While the Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally a time for Americans to gather with family and friends and celebrate the bounty and generosity of this country, we have to face the fact that, in many cases, we overdo it. A Thanksgiving feast of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, salads, vegetables, and pumpkin pie can test even the heartiest teen-aged appetite.

Many Americans look forward to all the left-overs and have figured out good ways to use them over the following few days (or weeks). Others, though, simply toss much of the excess food away.

San Francisco-based Imperfect Foods, a group dedicated to eliminating food waste and building a better food system for everyone, estimates that Americans will throw away a Thanksgiving feast worth a $5.9 billion this year.

Over the course of a full year, an average U.S. household will throw away $1,752 worth of food according to Imperfect Foods. There are about 126 million U.S. households and that totes up to nearly $221 billion in wasted food in a single year. And that waste happens while 41 million Americans, including 13 million children, are hungry.

Seven of the country’s largest states will each waste more than $200 million worth of food this Thanksgiving: California ($699 million); Texas ($507 million); Florida ($376 million); New York ($345 million); Pennsylvania ($226 million); Illinois ($225 million); and Ohio ($207 million).

The following chart shows the 10 U.S. cities that will waste the most food this Thanksgiving.

Rank City State Thanksgiving Food Waste
1 New York New York $148,405,877
2 Los Angeles California $70,511,358
3 Chicago Illinois $47,814,914
4 Houston Texas $41,091,620
5 Phoenix Arizona $29,337,006
6 Philadelphia Pennsylvania $27,991,718
7 San Antonio Texas $27,074,557
8 San Diego California $25,196,996
9 Dallas Texas $23,766,980
10 San Jose California $18,202,203


Imperfect Foods suggests five ways to help reduce food waste. First, buy only as much fresh food as you can realistically consume, plan meals in advance, and use a list. Second, use smaller-size plates that hold smaller portions. Third, save and use leftovers as much as possible. Hosts try their best but the road to the “host with the most” award — while paved with the best of intentions — often turns out to be a stairway to hell. So here are 30 Thanksgiving hosting mistakes you should not make.