Monday, January 3, 2011

Meatless Monday: Waste Less

Happy 2011 everyone!

On this first Meatless Monday of 2011 it seems fitting to propose a New Year’s resolution — to waste less, food in particular.

In her most recent newsletter Lidia Bastianich, host of the television series Lidia's Italy, cookbook author, restaurateur, and partner in Eataly, pledges that in 2011 she will make a conscious effort to “not waste food” and invited her readers to make the same commitment. She states, “This effort will be made not only by myself, but by our employees in our restaurants and retail shops. I will also take the opportunity to share this message in the media, and my teachings throughout the year.” Lidia also invites readers to participate in her site’s discussion board — Community Table — to exchange ideas on ways to make such change possible. There are already 12 pages of comments!

In his blog journalist Jonathan Bloom “writes about why we waste food, why it matters and what we can do about it.” Jonathan states that “Americans waste more than 40% of the food we produce for consumption… At the same time, food prices and the number of Americans without enough to eat continues to rise.” Jonathan has been researching the topic of food waste since 2005, when he learned of food rescue efforts as a volunteer at a homeless shelter.

He has also written a book — American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food, for which he provides this summary: “American Wasteland examines how we waste nearly half of our food, chronicling waste from farm to fork. The book discusses why food waste matters and offers suggestions on what we can do better. American Wasteland is a journey through our food chain that raises questions about how our approach to eating has changed so much and what it means… A word of warning: It’s a book that forces you to reconsider your approach to food. Because once you’re looking for food waste, it’s hard to miss.”

Both Lidia and Jonathan are optimistic that together we can make great progress towards lessening food waste and getting more food to the hungry. The concluding words of American Wasteland’s introduction read, “You may be amazed by how freely and easily we dispose of food, from farm to fork. But it can be equally amazing how freely and easily we can diminish our vast squandering. To achieve that feat, though, we need to fully understand and acknowledge the scope of the problem.”

Who can possibly the dispute the merits of cutting down on waste? I’m in. I resolve to finish every box of cereal I buy (whether I like it our not), and to finish the produce I have before purchasing new. Together, let’s celebrate our leftovers and the contents of those doggy bags and turn them into a smorgasbord. This shouldn’t be too hard to do.

You can check out Jonathan’s and Lidia’s sites for more tips, or this 2006 NPR interview Ted Robbins conducted with anthropologist Tim Jones, who opens his fridge to determine not what he wants to eat, but what he needs to eat.

In closing, here is an adage from my youth: “Take what you want, but eat what you take. You can always go back for seconds.” It’s a start…

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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