A World Wide Worry: Wasted Food While Others Want

December 20, 2017

One third of the food produced every year is lost. Forty percent of food in the United States is never eaten. This gargantuan waste is not going to work out for the future population that is predicted to reach nine billion people by 2050. The U. S., other developed countries, and the one percent of the world population need to pay attention; everyone should care about this issue of food waste, because the impact of everybody’s choices are felt throughout the globe.

The first reason we should eliminate food waste is because it is exactly that: a waste. It is a waste of time, labor, and resources. Just imagine how much energy is invested into creating every ounce of nourishment! First we take into account what it cost to grow, which contains the impact of the soil, water, fertilizer, and the machines or humans that planted and harvested it. If the food was meat, we must also consider how much energy it took to grow the food to feed the now-slaughtered animal. Next, think about the energy spent on processing that food. Pasteurizing, refining, curing, and other common preparations require time and power inside the factory and out to change raw ingredients into food products. In addition, transportation is another large contributor. Ships and trucks release a tremendous amount of gas, traveling thousands of miles all over the world to bring their products to us. Finally, cooking food uses a variety of resources. Fuel or electricity for stoves and water used in washing vegetables and fruits adds up. Wasting food costs more than just the leftover soup in the pot and the forgotten pasta in the fridge. To think about it monetarily, it takes an “annual estimated cost of $218 billion, costing a household of four an average of $1,800 annually.” (NRDC).  Now, I don’t know about other people, but my family would appreciate an extra two thousand a year. In short, food waste is an expression of contempt to the people who worked to produce it and of the struggling world that can only bear so much harm to its environments.

Many people may think that most greenhouse gases being produced by human activity are from cars, factories, etc., and that even if we did cut down on the amount we discard, it wouldn’t benefit the environment significantly. In contrast with popular belief, 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions are credited to livestock alone, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. All of this only consists of animals and not of fruits, grains, or vegetables. Specifically in the U. S., wasted food emits more greenhouse gases than “37 million cars,” says the NRDC. “... In fact, food is the number one contributor to landfills today.” If we all buckled down and worked together to reduce our food waste, we could take out the single greatest component in our trashcans.

Throughout history, people have starved. Early governments and economic systems often gave a life of plenty to the upper class but denied the other people basic rights and necessities. Take the pre-revolution French peasants, for example. Towards the late eighteenth century, the French king, queen, and nobles spent lavishly on food, clothing, and more. Marie Antoinette especially was famous for her extravagant tastes, including elaborate wigs and a model farm where she and her ladies-in-waiting could dress up as milkmaids and shepherdesses. Meanwhile, the French peasants were dying of hunger and eventually decided to revolt against the government. Uneven distribution in wealth and privileges caused most to suffer while a few benefited.
Now that many countries are democracies and are working together to solve world problems, and farming is infinitely more productive, shouldn’t everyone, at the very least, have enough to eat? They should but often don’t. Many people in this world do not have access to enough food. Last year, I went with my church to volunteer at the Miracle Kitchen in Framingham. I remember being excited to be helping out, but curious to meet the people there. As it turned out, I didn’t meet anyone, because I had to work in the kitchen the whole time. Mountains of lettuce, trays of chicken nuggets, and pasta all had to be prepared. Between my friend and her family, the pastor and me, we served nearly a hundred people that night. Those people were only in that small area, a thriving town. Globally, about 795 million people, or one in nine, are hungry, as estimated by the U. N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Our own basic ethics should dictate that we cannot cast aside food or let it rot when, if we had managed our resources better, the food could have fed someone else. When so many people suffer from malnutrition, what right do we have to throw excess food away?

To most people, composting or planning meals and eating leftovers might seem terribly inconvenient. They would like to help reduce waste but just don’t have time. Also, for folks who live far from the grocery store, making multiple trips a week to have fresh ingredients and ensure that vegetables don’t rot can consume much of their schedules. Other individuals “hate” leftovers. On the other hand, if we think about this from a different perspective, maybe from a slightly less privileged one, wouldn’t it be inconvenient to die from lack of food? Wouldn’t we hate, if we did survive, to be stunted in both body and brain development, and therefore trapped in an endless cycle of poverty? After all, if part of the world’s population is denied their full potential, how are they supposed to compete in the workforce with people who have had all their opportunities handed to them? Besides, these excuses are actually very feeble arguments when examined more closely. Composting, when I took the time to learn about it, can be carried out easily once the basics are understood, and doesn’t smell if done right.“If you create the proper balance of materials … the microorganisms that thrive there break down scraps with little to no odor,” says Darby Hoover from the NRDC. The other ‘inconveniences’ have similar solutions, so people who complain really have no excuse not to act.

In conclusion, let me say this: food waste is not some trivial issue that someone else will fix. Every person, including you, reader, needs to compost, plan, and choose their way out of this massive, and rather ridiculous, problem.

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