Last year leaders from all around the world gathered in London to feast upon destined for the garbage bin. It was perfectly good food that was deemed unfit for Western grocers because of its size and blemishes. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Unlike most days, that food wasn’t thrown out to rot in landfills. Instead it was chopped, sauteed, roasted, and elevated by top chefs to demonstrate its intrinsic value.
Of the 4.4 billion tons of food produced each year, roughly half of it is wasted according to the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology. In Africa and Asia, most waste occurs because of improper food storage and transportation. That can be solved as technologies are shared and better infrastructures are built.
In the Western world food waste is primarily due to poor planning and ignorance. The average North American and European wastes 620-660 pounds of food each year. That’s 2,580 pounds of garbage for a family of four every single year.The average North American and European wastes 620-660 pounds of food each year. That's 2,580 pounds of garbage for a family of four every single year.Click To Tweet
Think of how many people that could feed.
Think of how much it costs.
All wasted for no reason at all.
This reminds me of the citrus canker disease that wiped out many orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit trees in Florida. Citrus canker is a bacteria disease that causes blemishes to appear on fruit, although it does not actually effect the quality of fruit. Sunshine State officials chopped down all citrus trees within a 125 radius of every tree they identified as having citrus canker to prevent further spreading of the disease.
Many homeowners lost beloved, uninfected, fruit-producing trees in an effort to save the citrus industry from loss due to blemished, but safe to eat, fruit. The massive hurricanes of 2005 demonstrated the futility of this approach and the eradication program ended, but not before $800,000,000 of federal money was spent needlessly killing 4,000,000 trees.
Why Do We Treat Food Like Garbage?Why do we treat food like garbage?Click To Tweet
When I read articles about the glories of organic food, there is often a tenor that everything that isn’t organic is flat-out garbage. Studies which demonstrate staggering nutritional losses as food sits are quoted.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely support local, sustainable and organic food, but the tone which implies that food is garbage troubles me.
We live in a country with vast food deserts. Food deserts are areas where local people have limited access to quality, fresh produce. Some are located literally in the desert in the Southwest, but others are in the concrete jungles of major cities and, paradoxically, in the great Midwestern farmlands that are increasingly used just for subsidized corn and soybean crops destined for factories. In food deserts, we advise people to go ahead and eat the slightly wilted lettuce, cut out the bruise and eat the rest of the banana.
Why do we call it food for some people, but consider it garbage for our own families?Why do we call it food for some people, but consider it garbage for our own families?Click To Tweet
Feeding our Families Garbage
When I first fed my babies solid food, they would sometimes spit it right back out. Max shuddered so strongly at the taste of his first bite of green beans that he literally hopped three times in his high chair. This is considered normal here in America. We don’t expect children to like green food. There’s a flood of information about how to sneak veggies into our children’s mouths.
But I wonder…
What if we lived in Africa? Do children in countries with limited access to fresh produce reject vegetables outright, or do they eat them, understanding the scarcity and preciousness of fresh food?Do children in countries with limited access to fresh produce reject vegetables, or do they eat them, knowing the scarcity and preciousness of fresh food?Click To Tweet
I don’t know the answer, but I would love to talk to mothers around the world to find out.
What I do know as that in our global community, we are connected not only by our shared humanity and interdependent economies, but also by our food supply. Of earth’s 7 billion current residents, 1 billion are obese and 1 billion are starving. Clearly, we are failing to make that connection.Of earth's 7 billion current residents, 1 billion are obese and 1 billion are starving. Click To Tweet
At the most fundamental level, we need to treat food with the respect it deserves.
It sustains our lives.
It is essential to our survival.
It is certainly not garbage.Food isn't GARBAGE!Click To Tweet