Monday, August 30, 2010


Statistics can some time be breath taking and here is an example. American consumers throw away good foods to the tune of 30 million tons an year which is lot of food even for a rich country like the US. Food wastage is a relative term and how far all the data put on the web are reliable is not known. Since such data are generated based on limited field studies and extrapolated to country level statistics, there could be considerable error in the conclusions drawn from these studies. Still it shows a trend about the insensitivity of citizens in some of the richer countries to the value of food which is taken as granted like water and air. While one can talk about hunger in Asia and Africa endlessly without reaching any where, what strikes as odd is the fact that there are millions of Americans in the US itself who do not have guaranteed access to regular food every day. A paradox of gigantic magnitude indeed!

"Most Americans — even those who are sustainable foodies — definitely lack this habit now. The sustainable food philosophy seems to strangely end with the culmination of each meal: Each American wastes about one pound of food every day, resulting in a country-wide total of about 30 million tons each year, according to the New York Times. Only two percent of this waste is recycled. In fact, about half of our food supply goes uneaten, concluded one 2004 study. A pretty depressing statistic considering that there are currently more than one billion hungry people in the world. Ditching food is actually an incredibly environmentally degrading practice. blogger David Orr recently wrote that trashed food is a waste of "the resources that went into producing, shipping, and storing that food," including tons of water and oil. He goes on to note that "edible food waste left to rot in the landfill emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change." Finally, he writes,"If we can do a better job of minimizing waste and maximizing yield, we can feed more people with the same amount of land."

"Indeed, it would seem that global hunger is not a food production problem. Rather, it's a distribution issue. In 2008, 49.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households, despite the fact that the country literally throws away millions of tons of perfectly edible chow each year. And the situation seems to have gotten worse lately: The non-profit Feeding America surveyed its members and found 74 percent of pantries, 65 percent of kitchens, and 54 percent of shelters reported an increase in visitors since 2006. Many cities and towns have reported supply shortages at food banks, thanks to continued unemployment and tighter household budgets. Huizar knows that the new model works because it's already been tested. Thousands of L.A. residents receive surplus food leftover from more than 400 events at the L.A. Convention Center each year. Not only does it work, it's a piece of cake to implement: The only thing city, state, and federal policymakers have to do is round up interested non-profits and organizations to package and deliver leftover food that would otherwise be discarded from convention center dinners, board meetings, restaurants, and other city facilities. It's a simple strategy where everyone wins — including the planet".

Food Banks which are working based on donated foods, are doing an excellent job in salvaging at least a small portion of this waste for delivering to the needy but they are able to touch only the fringe of the problem because of many inherent limitations. The logistics involved in saving the food are indeed nightmarish and this is especially true when it comes to salvaging foods wasted at household level. A practical way to tackle this waste is to bring some discipline in eating at the citizen level which in turn, will reflect in reduced buying from the market. Such efforts are bound to have a multiplier effect at national and global levels, with lesser strain on the resources of the earth.


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