August 25, 2012 in Opinion

Editorial: Food waste is a problem we should be downsizing

 

The following editorial from the Chicago Tribune does not necessarily reflect the view of The Spokesman-Review editorial board.

If your parents made you sit at the kitchen table until you finished dinner, the following announcement is certain to disturb you: Americans are wasting up to 40 percent of the country’s food supply. It’s a statistic that ought to outrage every member of the Clean Plate Club.

Excuses for wastefulness abound. The blueberries – now moldy fur-berries – were on sale at the farmers market. So you bought five containers. The neighbor dropped off 7 pounds of zucchini from his garden. Those bananas surrounded by fruit flies? No time to reconstitute them into banana bread. To the trash they go.

Sometimes, ambitions at the grocery store wither when faced with the prospect of actually cooking the food and then cleaning dirty dishes. Grocery shopping is exhausting, after all. Can’t we order Chinese? (You’ll make the chicken casserole and green beans tomorrow).

Even the more conscientious among us who stuff containers of leftovers into the freezer often resort to food wasting. What the heck is the frost-covered, freezer-burned item banished to the back of the shelf? Is it chicken soup or apple pie filling?

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, estimates Americans waste $165 billion in food items each year. The average family tosses 20 pounds per person, per month.

The numbers may sound like an exaggeration, but consider the garbage created from plate-scraping one meal. Baked potato shells. Corners of New York strip. Asparagus stalks. That awful Waldorf salad with the raisins and the mayonnaise. If we don’t like something, we just throw it away.

Bigger picture: Dumped food isn’t the only thing we’re wasting. Think of the energy it took to produce the food. Those moldy blueberries were planted, watered, cleaned and trucked to the farmers market. The bananas may have been flown from South America. All that work, for nothing – except to pile up in a landfill. The defense council’s report says getting food to our tables consumes 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget.

And yet as a whole, Americans are fatter than ever. Apparently, we aren’t throwing away the cheeseburgers, fries and ice cream sandwiches. Are you kidding? We lick the wrappers.

No, it’s the fresh fruit and vegetables that end up in the garbage bin.

According to the report, the United Kingdom and European Union are making food waste a predominant issue. A U.K. education campaign called “Love Food Hate Waste” is raising awareness and driving down consumption. Businesses (think family-style Italian restaurants) are doing a better job of identifying ways to reduce food-as-trash.

As consumers, we can help by buying scarred or damaged fruits and vegetables. We can plan our meals better and smaller.

And we can make more pots of “garbage soup.” You know, the recipe where you throw everything from the fridge into the crockpot.

Our grandmas would be proud.

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