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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Food waste growing problem

There are relatively harsh taboos against littering, wasting gasoline, not recycling and wasting electricity. But there is no major taboo against wasting food.

We are accustomed to taking more than we can eat and then casually scraping what we don’t eat into the trash can. So why is food waste “OK” when it is just as detrimental to the environment as littering and using fossil fuels?

According to the award-winning documentary “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story,” Americans waste nearly 25 percent of the food we purchase in stores. That’s like going grocery shopping, walking out with four bags of food, dropping one in the parking lot and not bothering to pick it up.

Forget about the environmental impact for a minute—do you really want to waste so much money on food you end up throwing out? If we shopped more carefully and actually planned meals ahead of time, so as to only buy what we need, we could cut this exorbitant waste immensely.

Another thing that would help appease this problem is getting out of our cultural mindset of always needing to have extras. Having just enough food at an event is seen as embarrassing or a mistake—that makes no sense. Having exactly enough food should be the ultimate goal.

The point of revolutionizing our food waste habits is not because “there are starving children in Africa who need that food”—according to Hans Rosling, the amount of people who are genuinely starving in the world is far less than we think it is—but rather, because it is simply immoral to waste such massive quantities of food.

Food waste is one of the highest contributors to landfills. Our landfills are overflowing and producing excess amounts of methane and other awful gases, and we are setting up future generations to have to deal with disaster on top of disaster, environmentally speaking.

“The issue of food waste has compounded over time. From the turn of the 20th century till now, we have experienced a paradigm shift in the way we view our trash,” said Corbett Landes, an environmental science graduate student. “In the early 20th century, few things were considered disposable. Recycling was a profitable industry and discarding objects was considered heedless; now most of our possessions are considered expendable—especially food.”

Although household waste produces the highest quantity of discarded, perfectly edible food, supermarkets are also guilty of contributing to this colossal waste of food as well, according to “Just Eat It.”

Supermarket employees are trained to throw out produce that has any blemishes—even if the food itself is entirely safe and fresh.

Additionally, supermarkets throw out food that is within a few days of its “best by” date simply because they don’t think consumers will purchase it if it is so close to the date. There is no health danger in eating something after a “best by” date, according to the food scientists interviewed in “Just Eat It.”

A couple in the documentary who decided to live off of food waste for six months not only survived, they thrived. They constantly had a surplus of healthy, perfectly fresh food available to them just by asking for grocery stores’ “trash.”

If it is that easy to find free or very inexpensive food, it is rather shocking that there are still people who do not have enough food. So, this is your call to action—round up this wasted food from local supermarkets and get it to a food bank. Even if you do not need or want it, others do—so do your part, and simultaneously help struggling people, the environment and your bank account.

Let’s erase the stigma against eating cosmetically imperfect foods, acknowledge that a “best by” date does not mean it has to be thrown out after that date and make it taboo to constantly waste food. With adamant completion of these changes, we can stop making both our wallets and the environment cry every time we buy food.


Follow Talya Jaffe on Twitter.


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