The U.S. wastes 40 percent of the food produced, through factors such as crop spoilage, storage spoilage and consumers throwing out food that has gone bad [source: McIntire-Strasburg]. If we can cut that number down, it's the same as increasing yields.
Our food system is not always efficient. India's 2012 grain shortage is a prime example. In the summer of 2012, almost non-existent distribution, grain subsidies and lack of proper storage meant that grains rotted in the field while poor families in India starved [source: Bhardwaj]. The developing world isn't the only place where systemic problems mean wasted food. A shortage of apple pickers in the fall of 2012 meant that apples rotted on the vine in Washington state [source: King].
On the industrial agricultural level, the U.S. is making baby steps -- in one case, baby carrot steps to reduce waste. Those convenient baby carrots that are so good dipped in hummus are not actually young carrots but irregular carrots: ones that don't meet the high aesthetic standards at the grocery store. Producers reshape them into smaller, bite-sized carrots so that those veggies don't go to waste [source: Gunders]. Ugly produce is often just as safe to eat as pretty produce, but grocers won't stock ugly veggies for fear that consumers won't buy them.
Some companies, like Stop and Shop, are also learning that reducing food waste means saving money. By looking at what perishable foods their stores were wasting, Stop and Shop has saved $100 million per year [source: Gunders].
On the consumer side, education programs can help stem food waste. The U.K. runs a Love Food Hate Waste program aimed at teaching consumers how to waste less food at home. Individuals and families can take mindful steps to reducing waste, like planning meals and cooking leftovers. Proper storage can help reduce food waste too. The Web site Food Republic has an excellent infographic showing where to store different sorts of food in the refrigerator to make them last longer.