Editor’s Note: Aviva Rutkin is the second MIT science writing graduate student to accept the Hurricane Sandy Challenge. To read more of Aviva’s work, check out Scope; you can also follow her on Twitter @realavivahr.
My brother Brad is terrified of mold. Now that the power is out in our house on Long Island, I expect he is vigilantly ransacking our dead fridge at this very moment, eliminating any items in danger of rotting.
Americans already have a bad track record with food waste. A study in August reported that 40 percent of food in this country already goes straight into the trash—a 165 billion dollar habit.
With a natural disaster like Hurricane Sandy on the loose, I suspected that a few extra ingredients would find themselves prematurely trashed.
Some food, like meat and vegetables, can last for up to two days if you are scrupulous about keeping the fridge door closed. However, the outage in Long Island is predicted to stretch for at least one week.
This study from a NYC research group called Esri found that the average refrigerator in NYC and Westchester in 1999 would lose $72 of perishable food during a power outage, regardless of household income. According to the U.S. Inflation Calculator, $72 in 1999 is equivalent to $100.01 today.
So, we have 938,000 homes * 100.01 dollars of perishable food = $93,809,380 lost on Long Island alone.
Of course, there’s a good chance that I’m way off with this one. If anyone has access to more updated or official food loss statistics, please comment below!
In the past, customers have filed for reimbursement or even tried to sue power companies for this kind of loss, but they haven’t been very successul. You’d probably be better off holding an impromptu feast.