Finish your vegetables

We waste a lot of food in this country. While I never subscribed to the “eat your veggies because others are starving” line of reasoning, I do think we need to fix our waste (and our waist!) problem. According to a recent article in the NY Times, we waste an astonishing 27% of food available for consumption.

Grocery stores discard products because of spoilage or minor cosmetic blemishes. Restaurants throw away what they don’t use. And consumers toss out everything from bananas that have turned brown to last week’s Chinese leftovers. In 1997, in one of the few studies of food waste, the Department of Agriculture estimated that two years before, 96.4 billion pounds of the 356 billion pounds of edible food in the United States was never eaten. Fresh produce, milk, grain products and sweeteners made up two-thirds of the waste.

So maybe my extra peas won’t make a difference, but our collective bad habit ads up to billions of pounds of food wasted. And, yes, there are people starving in the world. Surely there’s a way to connect the dots so that some of our excess is directed to those who need it.

I remember one visit to my college cafeteria. We had an all-you-can-eat buffet style setup. There was a lot of waste. But then one evening, as we arrived to show our ID cards, there was a row of garbage cans filled with slop and food. It was the waste of yesterday’s dinner. I’ll bet most of us took only what we could eat that night. What if that sense stayed with us? What if we did a better job of insisting that waste, not just food, is unnecessary. We’ll never get rid of waste completely, but it’s not moral for us to waste so much when others have so little.

(I saw the NY Times article over on Boing Boing.)

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