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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


France passes anti-waste law, America lags behind

France recently passed a law requiring all major supermarkets to donate food that would otherwise be wasted. While this legislation is a welcome addition to the battery of actions needed to prevent waste, it is not the militant action it’s being heralded as, but rather a reminder of the greater efforts we as a society could be making to prevent waste.

In our own Tucson community, homelessness, food insecurity and hunger prevail as we rank the nation’s fifth poorest metropolitan area, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Food waste exacerbates the already absurd challenges that our city’s hungry face. While services and programs exist to overcome the massive waste present in both our city and the world at large, France’s legislative action tells us that we are not being as sustainable or responsible in regards to food waste as we could be.

Berkley Harris, board member of the UA’s Campus Pantry, is proud of the efforts our community makes but concerned that not everything possible is being done.

“The unique aspect of need in the Tucson community is that we are considered a food desert, with many people lacking the food they need, while [we are simultaneously] so close to a major food distribution port: Nogales,” Harris said.

With local food banks like the Nogales Community Food Bank, Borderlands Food Bank and the UA’s Campus Pantry, supply does not seem to be an issue. Local programs like Market on the Move (which offers 60 pounds of produce for $10 every Saturday) and Food Conspiracy Co-op’s commitment to food recycling clearly address concerns.

Co-op employee Dick Gase said that any dairy or produce past its “best by” date is free for employees and anyone who asks. Gase said he “hasn’t bought milk in years.”

Despite these programs, grocery stores, homes and restaurants still throw out millions of tons of food daily.

“I don’t think we can afford to throw out food right now, but there aren’t the right services to make use of the food that can’t be sold,” Harris said. “Our nation’s obsession with perfect [looking] produce is contributing to massive waste. It seems like there is a great supply, but it just isn’t getting to the people [who] so desperately need it.”

The not-so-shocking metrics that the research surrounding the legislation produced reveal that the majority of waste is from the home and not the supermarket. According to a Guardian article supporting the measure, “An estimated 7.1m tonnes of food is binned in France each year – 67% of it by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. The figure for food waste across the EU is 89mtonnes while an estimated 1.3bn tonnes are wasted worldwide.” The numbers for American waste are similar.

This waste stems from our consistent fear of eating something that is less than perfect; a brown banana may be riper and sweeter, but the white flesh is what people want. Since 1996, federal law has prohibited any unlicensed food donations made in good faith. The fear of liability is one already addressed, of course excluding gross negligence or intentional misconduct (poisoning people).

According to former Safeway employee John Wadginski, quoted in a Huffington Post article on food waste, Safeway is a culprit of negligent food waste. Wadginski was constantly bothered by what he was forced to trash every night at closing.

“I had to throw out 10-pound hams that weren’t even touched,” he said. “It was easily 50 pounds of food a night,” — food that could easily have been taken to a shelter and consumed if not saved.

Our government could mandate supermarkets and large food retailers to donate everything that would be wasted otherwise, but that won’t change America’s obsession with avoiding bruised pears. Change should begin with the American attitude, though legislation would be nice, too. We’re not in a position to neglect responsibility as a nation, especially with California — the largest producer of most domestic produce — experiencing an unprecedented drought. France started something we can adopt, adapt and improve upon. 


Nick Havey is a junior studying physiology and Spanish. Follow him on Twitter.

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