As a child, I was required to clean my plate. “Think about all the starving children in Africa.” my mother repeatedly said. And so I gobbled up my dinner. Even though that philosophy changed when I was raising my kids, “Keep mealtime happy; they take what they need.”, I still hated wasting food.
According to a National Geographic article, “One-Third of Our Food is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done”, more than 30 percent of the food we grow, valued at $162 billion annually, isn’t eaten. Globally it is rising to 50% as developing nations struggle with spoilage and Western nations simply throw food away. In general, “the richer the nation, the higher its per capita rate of waste.”
Think about your restaurant dining experiences. Restaurants usually serve overly large portions, which most people don’t eat. They either leave the food or ask for a doggy bag. Doggy bags make sense except the food, along with other leftovers, is often thrown away. So then is the doggy bag packaging, usually made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam. With elaborate buffets in restaurants and on cruises, consumers help themselves to excessive and unhealthy portions often not eaten. At the end of the buffet, the leftover food is dumped.
The National Geographic article states that food retailers usually have in-store losses of 43 billion pounds of food a year. They over order to avoid running out of a particular product and potentially losing customers. Consumers over buy because food is relatively cheap and designed to be seductively packaged.
Consumers also take the “use by” date literally (brainwashed?), even though the stamps were “designed to communicate peak freshness and have nothing to do with food safety.” Again, out goes the food and back to the store to buy more.
Uneaten food goes beyond the obvious waste. It also wastes exorbitant amounts of fuel, agricultural chemicals, water, land, and labor needed to produce and transport the uneaten food. Those wasted toxic chemicals used to produce food seep into our waterways and deplete the soil of beneficial nutrients. And if that’s not bad enough, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space where it generates methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.
Yikes – It’s time to go back to the era of cleaning our plates!
Next week’s blog – Food Loss/Solutions
Information compiled from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/One-Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” and http://modernfarmer.com/2013/09/next-food-revolution-youre-eating/
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