Wasting Food—A Sinful Act E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 10:00  |  Written by Marita Prandoni | Blog Entry

Food Waste Disposal photo by hipsxxheartsAs divulged in an earlier blog entry, I am from a large family. In the tiny Montana town where I was born, my family made up 2% of the entire population of 600. That’s ten kids and two parents. Catholicism, the baby boom, family tradition and wide-open spaces all contributed to my parents’ decision to heartily help populate our town. And we weren’t the only sizable family around. There was one positive aspect to this upbringing, though. I was taught not to waste food.

In a recent study, scientists at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) in Bethesda, Maryland, estimate that in the US, more than 40% of the food supply is wasted. It makes me wonder if the quality of food people are procuring is so poor that it makes them want to throw much of it away. Could it be that many Americans have forgotten what really fresh, simple food tastes like? Or maybe it isn’t expensive enough. Less-healthy food in America seldom reflects the cost to bring it to market.

Last summer when we had a couple over for dinner, one of our guests remarked that the carrots in the salad were “a universe away” from anything he had ever eaten. Carrots from our organic garden are a food I have come to take for granted. So it made me wonder: Have his taste buds been deprived?

But back to the problem with wasting food; there are a lot of hungry people in our wealthy country. According to Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity, 49.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households in 2008, an increase of 11% from 2007. The least people should do if they find themselves throwing out a lot of food is to compost it instead. Our waste would then at least be another creature’s lunch. Imagine all those happy worms and the rich, black gold they would be creating! How we eat and how we strive not to waste are keys to alleviating hunger, helping the environment and creating a more equitable food system.

Not wasting food takes extra planning. I try to gauge my family’s needs and purchase just enough groceries so they are eaten long before they spoil. (I should add that my husband isn’t altogether happy with this practice and worries about being underfed). Also, a couple of years ago, I spent our tax rebate on a downsized refrigerator and small “Energy Star” freezer. This is something to consider if you plan to replace older appliances.

If you surprise yourself with a food surplus (which happens more often during the holiday season) and realize it before it’s too late, note that almost every city and town has organizations that feed the hungry. And they aren’t hard to find. The Feeding America website has a searchable database to help you locate a food bank near you.

Additional resources:
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters
Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen by Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry
NRDC Report: 40% of US Food Wasted
Wasted Food: A Human and Environmental Shame

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Comments (4)add
Written by Quick and Easy Dinner Recipes , July 09, 2010
I can cook some things like crab rangoon, tuna casserole, easy stuff. I want to cook the dishes my mom makes and other recipes (she shows me but she always estimates the time and amount she puts in which is hard).

I want to learn to cook but I'm afraid I'll do terrible and the food will go to waste, I hate wasting food. Any advice? Oh, and I'm always too lazy with no motivation to cook...I always end up buying some fast-food or my mom's left over cooking.
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Written by MaRTHA A JOHNSON , December 10, 2009
Marita I am going to practice buying less food and not wasting it. A compost for other animals is a great idea. Marty
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Written by Sara , December 10, 2009
Thanks for the refrigerator advice, R. Mine was too warm. I've now fixed it.
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Written by R , December 10, 2009
It's also important to keep your refrigerator at the proper temperature (between 35 and 38 degrees F, or 1.7 to 3.3 degrees C)--a lower temperatures and your stored foods may freeze; a higher temperature and they may prematurely spoil and leave you at risk for food poisoning.
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