Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Food, Waste & World Population

Every once in awhile, I find an article that strikes me and draws my attention into a topic or two that I really start thinking about.

 I stumbled on this article the other day, and I thought "Wow! What the hell are we doing?!"
Really? We are wasting how much food?!?!

As Americans I know we fall into this wastefulness partially actively by purchasing more food than we could possibly eat. We've all seen the newspaper ad/coupons where you buy one-get one free or $1 off when you buy three. Do I really need three boxes of noodles as a single person, who often eats less than one meal a day at home? I have purchased more food than I need and spent three times more than I intended/needed to just to use the coupon/advertised price. And I will probably not eat this food while the food is at its best.

It really isn't a bargain in the end.

Also we passively waste with the amount of food in our portions while eating out. On Sunday, I purposely turned down adding a side salad to my meal for the discounted price, because I knew I already had more on my plate than I could possibly eat. But turning down the "bargain" isn't always that easy, so we take the extra food, which we will not eat. The portion sizes in general are completely out of control.

Now for me, I think that the number of those suffering from hunger is what strikes me as the most amazing...makes me the most angry. It has been many years (probably since college) that I have had to actually put thought into where my next meal would be coming from and how I would pay for it. I cannot imagine that being part of my life as an adult let alone a child.

We turn a blind eye to those around us that are going hungry. We don't recognize that there are people in our own towns, on our blocks who do not have enough food. Even those who see it staring them in the face ignore it. Now this isn't just a mid-American problem, but if we focus on those around us, eventually that it will ripple out across the nation and world.

In 2000 I worked in a school program with kids from a wide range of economic backgrounds; there were two sisters in first and second grade that made me want to cry every day. Just at a glance, you could see they were hungry and poor. They were the oldest of the five children in their family. During our all day programs, I learned that at 7 and 8 years old, they were so concerned with food that they kept half their packed lunch (a cheese sandwich) "for supper tonight." Can you imagine that?! But what made me angry during this time was the arrogance and mean spirited-ness that came about in regards to them from adults. Each day the program provided a snack to the kids, and during Christmas break they over estimated how much food we needed. Well, I decided to slip these two little girls a little extra. When my boss found out, she came into my school and chewed me out about it. There was no reasoning with her about how the food would go bad and they needed to eat. Her response only made me more angry; she even mentioned that the program was on a sliding payscale and they didn't pay anything to be there. I was fuming by the time she left as was one of my employees who witnessed this. She not only ignored their hunger, but punished them because it. Treated them like they were worth less because of their economic status and hunger.

Now if we are wasting a third of the food produced now, what are we going to do when the Earth's population is 9 billion? Why are we allowing this much food to be wasted? Why are we allowing people, families, kids to go hungry while this happens?

I truly believe that when people do not have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from, they are happier, more productive and can focus on living a better life. Hunger drives many of the world's problems. Violence grows out of this basic need. It might not seem connected, but if you are starving, you will fight to get food. Whether it is full on war or rebellion or domestic stress and violence. If you need to put your all energy and thoughts on food, you are unable to learn, work, interact happily.

As for the environment impact, I believe if we put the focus on feeding those who need it and not wasting this will help with this part of a growing issue. Perhaps even create minimum waste. But at the same time, the methods used to produce this wasted food needs to be changed. Deforestation and water use are not doing us any favors.

So I guess some options for me to work on this will be:
*Actively reduce waste through shopping critically
*Donating extra food, if/when I over purchase food
*Actively reduce waste through better choices while eating out, asking for smaller portions & actually eating my leftovers
*Continue to compost my scraps
*Eat foods that are grown and produced closer to home

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