Let’s say you work in an office, and every once in awhile everyone likes to order in food and eat together. You get takeout from someplace like Chipotle; nothing too fancy. It’s a nice tradition.
would you do if the manager called and told you “Oops, we
goofed, we made your order for today instead of tomorrow like you had
asked us to. We’re really sorry, but we already have all this food
prepared. We can offer it to you for half price today (and still make
it all again tomorrow if you’d like) or we can just throw it all away.”
you tell them to just go ahead and throw it away? People have already
made their lunchtime plans, brought Lean Cuisines from home, etc. It’s
not your fault they messed up, so why should you be inconvenienced?
A few Saturdays ago I had the opportunity to volunteer with an organization called Produce to People
here in Pittsburgh. It was an event organized by my alumni club, and I
thought it sounded like a great activity, especially at this time of
year when it's a good reminder that although you may have plenty, there are a lot of people who could use a little help. Produce to People works to get fresh produce and other healthier food into
the hands of people who rely on food stamps, disability, or are having a
temporary food crisis caused by an emergency.
spent the first part of the morning sorting food, and bagging up things
like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions. Then we set up stations in a
parking lot and handed out 30,000 pounds of food to 525 people, who
each represented a family in the greater Pittsburgh area who are “food
unstable” in some way. As we were sorting that morning, especially the
tomatoes, we set aside food that looked too ripe or banged up to give
away. The organizers put it all in a bin at the end of the parking lot,
and we figured it was trash.
few hours later, as we handed out food, people starting asking us about
the bin at the end of the line. We told them it was rotten food. I
will never forget the mental image of these people sorting through
bruised and rotten tomatoes, cheerfully saying things like “This will be
perfectly fine in a soup or stew!” and “I can just cut this bruised part off!”
At one point I was literally in tears.
didn’t have a whole lot of rules in my house growing up, but one of the
big ones was that we didn’t throw away food, ever. We saved it and ate
it later, or someone else did. We were big on leftovers, and portion
control, and tight, organized meal planning.
is for feeding people. It’s not for burning to fuel cars, or throwing
away because it’s inconvenient or doesn’t seem as yummy as leftovers the
next day. It’s for feeding people who are hungry. The end.
The NRDC, which is a nonprofit
environmental organization, states Americans throw
out 40 percent of the food they buy every year. That translates to the average American family of four throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food.
the fact that 40 percent of food is wasted, getting food from the farm
to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50
percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed
in the United States.
Since 1970, the amount of food that is thrown away has increased by 50 percent.
Something to think about next time leftovers sound kind of boring.