Sunday, November 29, 2009

We waste 40% of our food: An indicator of how we value food?

A new study was just published in the journal PLoS ONE announcing that Americans throw away 40% of their food. A heartbreaking juxtaposition to the recent alarm that US food security is rapidly declining.

Not enough food is getting to the people who need it, and those who have enough are wasting too much.

Admittedly, I used to be the queen of wasting food--I've always been a finicky eater and my parents never enforced the clean plate rule. Two things changed that: the green compost bin next to my trash can and becoming a gardener.

Compost is the law in San Francisco--places like Britain and Quebec are also taking the steps to ban food waste from landfills. Food waste and other biodegradables can't decompose in the anaerobic environments that are our landfills so instead, they begin to emit methane, a potent contributor to climate change. I don't have to do much in my city to help combat this--merely separate my food and paper scraps from my trash just as I do with recycling. Then the city takes it to a massive composting facility where they breakdown the scraps into amazing soil amendments for local farms. If only it were this easy everywhere.

But becoming a gardener was the way I began to start putting less food into that compost bin in the first place. There's something about nurturing a plant from seed to harvest that invests you in it in a completely different way. After harvesting a bowl full of green and purple beans I had once known as flowers I wanted to use them all. After waiting months for my one surviving beet in my community garden plot, there's no way I would let even the greens wilt, I used them along with the ruby root for my next meal.

To begin to waste less as a country, we need to begin to value more--value the food on our plates and tucked away in our fridges. And, we'll need that compost revolution to take root in every city!

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