January 10, 2012

Belly Up To The Bin

If there's one thing I've learned so far in this phase of That Poverty Project (i.e. "Struggles of the Working Poor") it's DON'T WASTE FOOD!!

Especially when dollars are precious, wasting food is simply throwing money away.  Accordingly, unless completely unavoidable I consume everything edible that I buy.  Nothing goes to waste.  I seem to recall my grandparents having the same philosophy . . . "Waste not, want not!"  If I heard that once, I heard it a thousand times from my Grandpa.  Of course, he supported a large family as a farmer during the Great Depression.  In other words, he was trained well to respect both money and food.

Sometime between then and now, values in the developed world have changed significantly.  We've decided that food that looks anything less than perfect is no good.  We've decided that it's better to err on the side of wasting food by having too much than turn a customer away at the grocery store or restaurant.  We've decided that food waste is acceptable.

"WHAT?!?" We didn't decide any of those things?  Then why is it "roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted"?  Why is it that per capita waste by consumers in Europe and North America is 95 - 115 kg per year (that's over 200 lbs of food per person!) while per capita waste by consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia is only 6 - 11 kg per year?  Is their food just lighter?   (Stats from Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN Study) 

I came across the following video trailer for a documentary film from 2009 called "Dive" that chronicles the new and growing phenomena of dumpster diving for food.  It's less than 3-minutes long but will open your eyes to a whole new world.

Seriously, this is a huge issue and it's out of control.  How can we tolerate having almost a BILLION people hungry in the world and yet have enough to feed them in our collective trash cans?  Besides being the direct link with those who don't have enough food, this waste also affects all of us in the price we pay for food.  And, as is the norm, the vulnerable and most financially challenged are the hardest hit.  The map below shows the percentage of income spent on food in various parts of the world.

Each of us can do our part to reduce our own waste by buying only what we need.  Then, we can also advocate with our grocery stores and local restaurants to encourage them to reduce their waste, or encourage them to utilize their waste for some beneficial purpose.  And, last but certainly not least, we can lobby our elected officials to make hunger alleviation a top priority at home and abroad.

Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

Click Here to See WHAT YOU CAN DO

Click Here to Sign . . . A Declaration to World Leaders

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