Wasting food is a sin, no doubt about it, my friend and I agreed the other night. While it is not called out specifically as one of the “Seven Deadly Sins,” Food Waste is right up there with the seven human shortcomings that made the list: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
Big Ag makes the argument that GMO crops are necessary to feed the world's growing population, but voices ranging from Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) have been urging corporations and consumers alike to recognize that cutting food waste would allow an immediate, dramatic reduction of the number of people in the world who are going hungry. A recent WSJ blog cites a study by the Copenhagen Consensus Center that makes this alarming statement: “Between 10-50% of all crops are lost between the time they leave the farm and reach consumers.” The group claims that “reducing post-harvest waste by just 10 percentage points could lower food prices and prevent 60 million people from going hungry.”
“Man in the Maze,” one of 5 films to win the Sundance Short Film challenge, opens with shocking footage of mountains of peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers from Mexico being dumped into Arizona landfills, still in their packaging, because the price point has fallen too low for the growers to make the desired profit. The film then goes on to show one group’s effort to salvage and distribute some of the discarded produce. You can watch it here.
In an interview with Food Tank, Jonathan Bloom reminds us that wasting food also squanders valuable natural resources (the energy and water that went into its growing and distribution) and contributes to environmental pollution since the food produces methane as it rots in landfills.
Large producers and corporations are not the only ones guilty of the sin of food waste. Consumers are at fault as well. Did you realize that Americans waste some 25% of the perishables they bring home?
There are some easy steps each person can take to help reduce this number. Every weekend, before making my grocery list, I try to take inventory of the perishables in my refrigerator, and then I play “Chopped,” in an effort to keep as much as I can from the compost bin or the trash can. This week I discovered some pre-washed kale on the edge; I steamed it and added it to a soup I had made earlier in the week.
My biggest challenge is not wasting dairy products such as that last bit of yogurt left in the container, or a piece of cheese saved for too long. More than once I had to toss buttermilk, purchased for use in baking, and then left on the refrigerator shelf, opened, for too long. Then I discovered powdered buttermilk. Powdered buttermilk stores for years when refrigerated, and there are clear instructions for its use printed on the container. Mix the powder with the dry ingredients and add the appropriate amount of water when prompted to add the liquid buttermilk. It may seem a small thing, but switching to powdered buttermilk is easy to do, and you will never waste this dairy product again.
For more ideas on cutting food waste in your own home, check out this resource prepared by the NRDC.
Happy Meatless Monday! Watch out for any icy patches! [Yes, we had to shovel out again today. But we saw flocks of robins over the weekend. Let's hope they know something we don’t.]
On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening 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.”