Remember that old saying: waste not, want not? When I was child, I really could not make heads or tails of it. It just seemed weird. But now that I am older, I really get. Not that those who are frugal and make use of everything them won't have times have need, but that it really makes sense that there is a tremendous sense of want in those are often the most wasteful of their resources. It strikes me that this is true not only on a personal level, but a systemic one, and the United State stands as a prime example. Think about all those commercials for plastic bags wherein grocery customers tell the butcher that they want, say three pounds of meat, but toss one in the garbage because that is what they will do with it at some point anyway. We all know how much we waste as individuals but did you know that the some estimates for the wasted food in this country hover around 40%? It's appalling.
When I think about the waste in food, I think about the vast numbers of people who struggle to afford healthy, quality food. I know that for my part, one the ways that I make my budget stretch is to not throw away food, especially not the pricy food I tend to buy. I just can't stomach the thought of throwing out food. A few months ago I wrote a post on how I try to use up little bits of things here and there so that very little waste, HERE. But not wasting my own food is not enough. Articles that point out the sheer number of people who can be fed on all that discarded food makes me feel like a World War II food hoarder, articles like this one HERE. About the same time that I wrote my post, I heard about some large scale public interventions on NPR, you can read about them HERE, which seek to address this giant resource being piled in landfills. An artist friend who sometimes blogs with his wife over HERE emailed recently because this has been on his mind a great deal. The thoughts about this food and these people linger in his mind but he is not sure what to do with them. Sometimes he writes, but by his own admission, not much and so he asked me to write about it. So not only did I think about it a bit more, but came to some scary conclusions and decided to write about it.
It is kind of funny because I am always thinking about food. I think about acquiring it, paying for it, processing it, preserving it, cooking it, serving it and writing about it. What do I think and then write about?Well, that we all need food to survive, but we need proper food to thrive. It makes me wish I had a billion dollars to make raw milk and cream available to everyone who qualifies for WIC to keep them off of grocery store milk, especially since the program mandates that all persons over two years old should drink low fat or skim milk. Thinking things like this leads me to start point some fingers. Hear me out...
I think that it is simply because factory farmed food is so cheap that it is so wasted. We waste it because on some level, we know it might not be worth saving. Even if it could save someone from starvation, we must know that no one thrives on Hot Pockets. I think the factory system might very well be to blame. If I am growing that food, saving for that food, if I have a sense that my food stands between me and health and longevity and strength and that of my children, if I fundamentally understand that this costly food is worth its price I do not let that food rot in my crisper drawer. But because I can always run to the local supermarket and find enormous, frighteningly giant displays of food I have no sense of its value or place. I think that the system that was designed and dedicated to the eradication of world hunger, to putting more food on the plates of more people, is the very system that causes us to pile it away behind a dam like those crazy people in that cartoon film version of "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs".
What do you think?