Waste Not!

February 8th, 2013 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Waste Not!

food wasteEvery part of the food production chain creates waste. At the farming end, some crops are not harvested becasue they do not meet the cosmetic requirements to sell at retail stores. At the store level, keeping the racks and shelves picture-perfect looking with abundance tends to generate waste as well. Portion sizes at restaurants seem to grow larger each year with more of what’s served remaining on the plate rather than landing in our bellies. And, even when the food makes its way to our own kitchens, most households end up throwing out food due to over-purchasing, food spoilage and plate waste.

For many of us in the food industry, we’ve become somewhat immune to noticing the waste. We see it every day and it has simply become part of what we deal with on a regular basis. But the statistics surrounding our food waste are pretty staggering and clearly we need to change our food delivery system. Here is what we face as we move forward:

– Up to half the world’s food is not consumed by people. While our planet produces 4 billion tons of food every year, up to 2 billion tons are thrown away, destroyed, left to rot, or fed to animals.

– As the global population moves towards 9.5 billion later this century (an extra 3 billion more people than our current population), it becomes daunting to think how we will have the resources to grow enough food to feed everyone – particularly if half of what we raise goes uneaten.

– Resources like water, energy and chemicals, go into producing, packaging and transporting the food, whether or not it gets bought or eaten. And more resources are spent disposing of the uneaten foods into landfills. According to the Los Angeles Times, food waste not only accounts for the largest portion of landfills, it also decomposes and emits harmful methane gas.

– The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports that the amount of wasted food per American is 20 pounds a year—equivalent to a car tire or a huge Thanksgiving turkey. The wasted food uses a quarter of all freshwater and 4 percent of oil, and produces 25 percent of Methane gas emissions.

– Since 1970, the amount of food that is thrown away has increased by 50 percent.

For most people these statistics would seem surprising, as most of us simply don’t notice the waste. Despite rising food prices, the percentage of household spending that goes to food is at an all-time low, and no other nation spends as little on its food.

Meanwhile, most public schools are left to serve incredibly poor food choices, mostly because they have little to no funding. The entity that we hold responsible for the development of our kids on so many levels is not afforded the budgetary dollars to decently feed our children. This is so shameful, and yet right here in front of us, we have a solution. Rather than all of this good food ending up in landfills, how about it ends up in the lunchroom cafeterias of our schools? This should not be a difficult decision, nor should it be difficult to make happen.

Unfortunately, even as I write, that crazy institution that we call Congress is on the verge of implementing more draconian budget cuts. And guess who are hardest hit by these spending cuts? Yep, schools and necessary food options for the poor, our children, and the least among us. This is probably a good time to mention that this same political body recently voted to give oil companies (3 of which are in the top 5 most wealthy businesses in the world) billions of dollars worth of subsidies. This is why we can’t have nice things.