Amount of waste from farm to plate is food for thought

Putting a meal on the table for a husband and 10 kids during the Great Depression gave my grandmother an up close and personal view of the adage: Waste not; want not. OK, so it was a recession, not a depression that we just went through, but a lousy economy is a lousy economy and the advice is still good to heed.

[cleeng_content id="710810073" description="Read it now!" price="0.15" t="article"]As I stretched the Easter ham bone into a pot of bean soup, I thought about all the articles I’ve been reading lately about the food that gets wasted in this country. According to a recent analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, we throw away up to 40 percent of our food every year, even as hundreds of millions of people around the world go hungry. The council, according to an article in The Washington Post, found that “waste exists from farm to fork.”luse_art42413

I guess the relatively low cost of food in the United States makes it somehow easier to throw away that slightly shriveled up orange in the back of the fridge, or strictly adhere to the due date on a carton of milk, even though the contents are still perfectly good. According to the research, a U.S. family of four will toss up to $2,275 worth of food a year.

Looking at the waste that starts on farms, this report found that influencing growers are consumers wanting a perfectly formed and colored orange or peach, no blemishes allowed. One farmer who grew cucumbers estimated that 75 percent of the cukes he culled were edible.

Grocery stores follow shopper demands by laying out the produce section with shiny apples and carrots that are shaped just right, but they could take a clue from the farmer’s market folks who also offer “seconds,” the less than perfect produce that’s still viable, sold at a cheaper price. Who cares what a tomato looked like before it was chopped up and put into pasta sauce?

We could also emulate the efforts by our friends over in Europe. The European Parliament has pledged to cut food waste in half by 2020. The United Kingdom launched a “Love Food Hate Waste” program, according to the Post article. Store owners, for instance, have taken steps such as offering half-off on a cantaloupe whereas U.S. stores tend to drive sales with buy one, get one free. How much you want to bet the second cantaloupe gets tossed because it couldn’t be eaten soon enough?

I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to leftovers. I’m sick of meatloaf after the third day, so I freeze what’s left, only to turn around and toss it several months later when I find it in the far reaches of the freezer covered in ice crystals even through the aluminum foil.

My brother and sister-in-law have a flock of chickens and once a week they drop by a restaurant in their town and collect pails of leftover salad and other produce. Their chickens are ecstatic with the feast and good for them for keeping food out of a landfill.

Maybe we can solve the problem of food waste a few steps at a time. But it wouldn’t hurt to have the grandmothers sternly warning us to clean up our plates, reminding us that there are starving children on the other side of the world.


Nancy Luse writes from Frederick, Md., where at least she has a compost pile in her back yard.


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