Part of the Solution: Food Waste

My husband ordered a value meal at our favorite restaurant recently, a special offer that comes with a freshly baked cookie for dessert. And when they say freshly baked, they aren’t kidding. They bake their yummy snickerdoodles every two hours in order to provide soft, gooey treats. I wondered how in the world the restaurant could even go through so many cookies each day. It turns out they don’t. All the cookies that have matured to the ripe old age of 120 minutes are discarded. Wow. Now, if I wasn’t grain-dairy-sugar-anything-that-tastes-good-free, you’d know where to find me every night at approximately 9:00pm. Because I’d have to take up dumpster diving, which I hear people do, like as a hobby, or a sport even.

Bjoern and I were actually shocked to hear about so much intentional food waste, even more so because this restaurant is actually pretty eco-conscious, what with their paper straws and what not. Though, it’s not like we didn’t already know something in the back of our heads about the amount of food that gets thrown out daily at all sorts of food establishments – restaurants, schools, grocery stores. We always did. We just didn’t realize it could be so intentional. When I throw food out at home, and I do (so technically I can’t be pointing fingers), it’s because I planned poorly or, um, got lazy. It feels like an accident, not that that’s an excuse. But this discovery to me felt like a blatant disregard for resources just to provide customers with an experience that lasts all of one minute (how long does it take to eat a cookie?). Really, what else could have been done with all that flour? Or with those dozens of eggs? Or butter? Milk?

While there’s technically no use crying over spilt moo juice, it could behoove us to think about the amount of food that gets wasted and what this means. According to a New York Times article by Andrew Martin, entitled “One Country’sTable Scraps, Another Country’s Meal,” a whopping 27% of food available for consumption at restaurants, schools, grocery stores, or our own homes, is wasted.

There are a few implications to this staggering statistic, just off the top of my head (okay, okay, after reading said article). For one thing, all that food ends up in landfills. So, those rolling hills with the little white pipes sticking out are composed of a lot of wasted food (and diapers!) that could have been eaten (not the diapers), or composted at the very least. Also, that decomposing food produces methane, which contributes to global warming. And the production of all that food alone wastes time, money, natural resources, and energy (perpetuating global warming). But the most hurtful and frustrating implication of all is the fact that those valuable resources were wasted in vain, as the very purpose for which they were created or harvested was not realized. That food should have been eaten. Particularly as there are so many mouths in this world to be fed. Millions of them.

There are, however, a couple of things you and I can do to be a part of the solution to food waste.

For one thing, I can do a better job of planning my meals and writing grocery lists. This is technically a housewife no-brainer. Though I could just put on my associate editor’s hat and pretend I didn’t know…I’m not really a housewife…

I could also eat the brussel sprouts that came in my weekly delivered vegetable bin of which I forgot to adjust the contents. Same for the butternut squash that has been sitting in my fridge for weeks because I don’t want to be wasteful. Anyone have any recipes?

And I should probably just suck it up when I don’t want to cook and actually prepare the food that sits in my fridge.

(Though, in my defense, I am already part of the Clean Plate Club. So there’s that.)

However, in addition to being responsible for the food in my own home, I could also volunteer for Food Rescue, an organization founded by a member of my church and 2008 Hamilton County (Indiana) Person of the Year, John Williamson. Food Rescue got its start when John was disturbed by the amount of bread thrown away at a local Panera. Together with his family, he began picking up their leftovers to deliver to food pantries. This was just a little over a year ago, in November 2007. Unbelievably, he now has 600 local volunteers to help move food from twenty restaurants to various pantries, where the edibles can find their way into mouths that need it. And because of the organization’s success, with 40 chapters in 18 states, you can volunteer, too. The organization only asks for 90 minutes of your time, one night a month, to help redistribute restaurant food that would have been wasted.

It sounds so easy, and so practical, with very direct, tangible results. That’s certainly a part of the solution, if you ever asked me!

P.S. Interstingly enough, a NYC restaurant is being a part of the solution by creating a surcharge for food not eaten! Read about it here.

Faithful Burnside readers, please, please, send us your facts and ideas for being a part of the Solution! I am running out of ideas and want to learn from you! Send your article, 800 words or less, to reviews@burnsidewriterscollective.com.

1 comment:

  1. There was an 11-year old boy in Florida who saw the same restaurant waste. Many restaurants would love to donate but they don't want to be held liable if food recipients got sick. So the 11 year old authored a bill to let restaurants donate without fear of lawsuits. An 11 year old boy!