Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Food is the number one item thrown away in the United States, and it could be costing people hundreds of dollars. That's why multiple agencies gathered at the Don’t Waste Food Summit 2017 was to promote awareness about wasting food.

“Americans, the number one thing we throw away IS food.” said Richard Chesley, with DHEC.

Chesley says South Carolinians produced over 600,000 tons of food waste over the last year.

“When we throw away food not only do we lose the money we spent on that, we lose the natural resources and money used to produce that.” Chesley said.

Pat Taft, who works with Food Lion, says the edible food customers don't buy in their stores are frozen or refrigerated and donated.

For people at home, DHEC’s Richard Chesley says that lessening the waste is all about proper planning.

“When you go to the store, shop smartly, buy only what you need.” Chesley said. “Make a list, decide what you're going to do: are you going to eat out or not or how many times are you going to eat at home.”

Chesley insists that these tips will put money back into the customer’s pocket.

“On average a family of four throws away about $1500 worth of food every year,” Chesley said. “You could really give yourself a little pay raise if you did a little better managing your food.”

For more information on tips to lessen food waste, click here.