Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Nation's Food Disparity

Did you know that as a nation, we waste approximately 40% of the food produced? This is up 10% from 1974. A report just released studied the amount of food produced in the US compared to the amount of food consumed.

Over the past several decades, the agricultural and food industries have increased production of food products to 'keep up' with the increasing population. In turn, they have more aggressively marketed their products, which are becoming increasingly more 'processed.' I find it quite interesting that over the past 30 years, food production, waist lines, and food waste have all increased. Just because more food is availble does not mean we have to eat it all. Maybe the food producers will get the hint and realize they don't really need to produce so much (unfortunately that would mean their profits would decline which doesn't quite jive with their mission.)

One thing I don't like about many 'diets' or conscious eating techniques that people follow is to immediately separate a portion of a persons restaurant meal and ask the waiter to take it back to the kitchen immediately. Sometimes it may be half or more of a meal. Yes, I agree that restaurant portions are often much larger than they need to be, but this food that is being sent back is ending up in the trash. Instead, why not have the waiter(ress) put it in a to-go container and take it home to eat at another meal, or perhaps even give to someone who needs some food? Or, just ask the waiter to give you half the normal sized portion. I often ask waiters to only refill my water glass halfway if we are about to leave. Why waste the water? So often I see people throwing out half of their meal with no thought and then I walk outside and see someone with a paper cup hoping to collect enough money for a cup of coffee or a sandwich.

Just days before this study on food waste was released, the USDA announced that an increasing number of Americans are experiencing food insecurity (unsure how they will find their next meal or if they will be able to afford enough to eat). In 2007, 11.1% of Americans (13 million households) were in this position and in 2008, just a year later, that number had risen to 14.6% (17 million households)! And, the USDA says that 1.1 million children experience hunger several times a year.

Is it just me or does this seem crazy? We waste 40% of our food supply (which also contributes to excess usage of freshwater & fossil fuels and emits a good deal of CO2 & methane while decomposing) yet we have millions of households going hungry!

Woody and I have been talking about this lately, actually. When I brought home the produce from the Farmer's Market the other day we had to clear space in the fridge. We threw out pasta that was too old, lettuce we didn't finish, a once beautiful and now squishy apple, and a few other things. It made me sad that we were getting rid of so much food! What were we doing? Why couldn't we eat what we buy? We have agreed and are challenging ourselves to do better. We don't want to throw out so much food. It's a waste and there are so many people out there who need it. Granted, just because we don't eat something doesn't mean that someone who can't afford it will get it, but we shouldn't be so wasteful.

These two studies make me want to support more restaurants who support City Harvest (which collects food at the end of the day from Farmer's Markets and restaurants around the city for homeless and those in need of food) and also encourages me to be more mindful about what and how much we buy and not being wasteful. The key is finding the balance between eating well and not being wasteful and also to help those less fortunate when we can.

Be sure to check in Monday morning, when I announce my Very First Giveaway!!


No comments: