It’s hard for the average American to imagine true starvation. With the abundant availability of food at our fingertips: Grocery stores chock-full of food right around the corner, fast food joints at every turn and restaurants with their heaping portions – we never consider the hungry worldwide.
800 million people on this planet are starving. Worldwide, we waste 1/3 of the planet’s production, an astonishing 2.9 trillion pounds of food a year – enough to feed all of them twice.
In developing nations, those without easy access to refrigeration or passable roads, much is lost post-production. In more industrialized countries, more food waste occurs farther down the supply chain. Retailers order too much, restaurants serve huge portions that patrons don’t finish. Consumers lose leftovers in the back of the fridge or toss food because they’ve bought too much and it’s spoiled. They pitch perfectly good food (canned, boxed or frozen) because they’re paranoid about the “use by,” “best before” dates, not realizing that it’s still OK to eat. Nationwide, 40% of food used in school lunches is thrown in the trash.
Then there’s the 6 billion pounds of unharvested or unsold food which the United States wastes because it failed to win the beauty contest; misshapen, “ugly” produce, bruised, scarred, slightly bug-chewed or deemed not aesthetically pleasing for grocery shelves. Edible, nutritious food is going to waste while people starve.
Food waste taxes the planet’s resources. When food is rejected for looks, rots somewhere for lack of storage or thrown away by retailers or consumers, millions of gallons of water are wasted, more dangerous pesticides and herbicides were used than necessary, gasoline or diesel is wasted, seeds squandered and our landfills stuffed with edible food, all for naught.
There is hope. Here in the States, the USDA is promoting gleaning which means food is collected from farms, grocery stores, farmer’s markets and restaurants. (click HERE to get involved) A growing movement of gleaners salvages food and re-purposes it. A some farms are collecting discarded food, like the pig farmer outside of Las Vegas who gathers uneaten food from casinos to feed to his animals. PantryNet is available to let consumers find local food banks nearby. Schools are cutting back on food waste by offering sharing tables. “Feedback,” an organization dedicated to reducing food waste collects food on an international level. Feeding America is fighting hunger in America. Many restaurants have begun fine-tuning purchasing, making portions smaller and donating unused food to charities. Stores are springing up all over which sell packaged food past its “sell by” date which is certainly still edible. The former president of Trader Joe’s, Doug Rauch, opened a non-profit supermarket in Massachusetts, The Daily Table, offering fruits & vegetables soon to be discarded. Imperfect Produce, based in California, collects rejected produce from farms and delivers it right to your door. In our nation’s capitol, D.C. Central Kitchen collects food and provides 11,000 meals a day to shelters, schools and other locations.
We must be more conscious of the food we eat and more aware of the vast amount we waste. Keeping this in mind, we need to pressure those entities which throw away edible food, large grocery chains, restaurants, corporate farms, Mom-and-Pop stores, farmer’s markets and schools, to concentrate on feeding the world’s hungry.