Soon, many of us will gather around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends -- to indulge in an abundance of delicious traditional foods and give thanks for abundant blessings and freedoms.
The upcoming winter holidays are a wonderful and highly anticipated time to connect with loved ones and indulge in a certain amount of excess -- including, for many of us, excessive gift-giving. Holidays can be both the best of times (in terms of social gatherings) and the worst of times (in terms of overconsumption).
This year, Americans will spend close to $680 billion on holiday gifts for family and friends. Adults expect to spend an average of $1,189 each – even though research shows that 70 percent of those same people would welcome less emphasis on gift-giving and spending.
Here are some examples of "discretionary" holiday spending in the U.S.:
More than $9 billion on Halloween, including $350 million on pet costumes.
More than $3.2 billion on wrapping paper.
More than $9.5 billion on gifts that recipients consider unwanted or unneeded.
Holiday spending can seem especially excessive in the context of food insecurity:
-- In 2016, 41 million Americans (including 13 million children) lived in food-insecure households. This means that 1 in 8 of us (and 1 in 6 of our children) lack consistent access to adequate food. Twenty-six percent of us earn too much to qualify for most federal nutrition assistance programs, but not enough to buy healthy foods.
-- Forty percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten. Americans throw away more than 70 billion pounds of food a year. This number does not include the huge amount of produce discarded by millions of backyard gardeners.