“Food glorious food don’t care what it looks like…” – from the musical “Oliver!”
I guess you were wrong, Oliver Twist, because us Americans do care what food looks like. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, we waste over 133 billion pounds of food per year – that is equivalent to 40% of the whole country’s food!
Most of our food is lost in many areas of the food chain including farming, distribution and food service. In 2008, the U.S. lost 86 billion pounds of food in food services, including restaurants.
I know what you’re thinking: restaurants don’t generate that much waste. That big plate of pasta with that weird sauce that you attempted to eat says otherwise. Due to a considerable increase in portion sizes, 17% of meals are uneaten and 55% are not taken home, says Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland.
Now let’s take things into another perspective, say another country. Let’s take France. France, as we know it, can be called “the country of good food”. But what you don’t know is that it is also the country of sustainability.
On February 3rd 2016, French Parliament passed a law forbidding big supermarkets like Carrefour and Leclerc to throw away excess food products. They are required instead to give it to soup kitchens.
The battle against food waste, led by the city councilor Arash Derambarsh, started out as a petition which gained 200,000 signatures. It promised 10 million French citizens to be fed. Derambarsh even asked then-president, François Hollande, to convince Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to pass the law all throughout the European Union.
Why doesn’t the United States do like its ally, and act upon this issue?
Well, the U.S. does have some laws that forbid supermarkets and restaurants to throw away extra food, such as the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Act and the US Federal Food Donation Act of 2008, but the sad thing is that these laws aren’t as compelling as those in France. If all these laws were enforced, millions of Americans could be nourished, including children.
In a study performed by the USDA in 2015, 13.1 million children under 18 in the good ol’ USA live in food-insecure households – which means they don’t have access to enough nutritious food.
Imagine a young child, let’s say a malnourished 5-year-old, walking in an alley filled with trash cans. These trash cans are filled with food, perfectly good food. Imagine the dishwasher taking out trash, not pitying that small child, even shooing him or her away. Not a very good attitude for employees to have.
Now, your next question may be: well, after seeing my excess food being thrown away, how can I produce less trash and save the planet?
Well, here are some tips to protect our environment and save money:
- Try cutting portion sizes to a reasonable amount! Most people, including me, hate having a plate the size of whale in front of them on the dinner table. If I had a dollar for every time I left a plate with half of its’ contents remaining, I would be a millionaire. Having huge plates also means more food bought and thrown away which is bad for business. Just like throwing money into landfill.
- Find inventive ways to reuse imperfect food! A quick search on the Internet will help you with the search of new recipes. For example: using stale bread to make French toast or using browned bananas to make a delicious banana bread.
- Set up a relation with your local food bank using a software such as MealConnect, because feeding a homeless person is better than feeding a trash can. With the excess food, the food bank will put together a meal for a local community, which also helps the environment, lessening the impact of overflowing landfill waste.
For those of you who don’t know what MealConnect is, you can say it’s like an eBay but instead of having it for random people, it is used by managers of food banks and restaurants. The restaurant posts its excess food product and the food bank will buy the food and have it picked up. It’s easy as pie.
So the next time you see a whole shipment of food being thrown away, take action! Send a letter to your county or city council and ask them to act. Make America sustainable!
Prototypes, LLC Clever. “Food Waste Photos – FREE Creative Commons Photos of Food Waste.” Photos For Class. Accessed December 21, 2017.