Daily Archives: June 22, 2008

There’s No Excuse for Food Shortages in the Developed World! II

In our last post, I pointed out that not only does the developed world import more than enough food, but that it has the potential to produce sufficient food for the global population for years to come. The solution that I presented, at least in the mid-term, is quite simple:

  1. Stop Wasting Food
    The US wastes over 20B in food each year.
  2. Stop Wasting Food
    Poor quality monitoring leads to extremely wasteful recalls.
  3. Stop Wasting Food
    Way too much food is diverted to energy inefficient bio-fuel.
  4. Stop Wasting Food
    Crop yields are lower than they need to be globally because the right knowledge and technology takes too long to be applied.

But before you think all of the problems are caused by big business, and that only they need to be part of the solution, I should note that you’re also part of the problem, and part of the solution. So, what can you do?

  1. Stop Wasting Food
    Restaurant single-servings don’t have to be large enough to serve a small family.
  2. Stop Wasting Food
    Leftovers aren’t just for compost.
  3. Stop Wasting Food
    “Prepared foods” generate large amounts of waste.

We all know the saying that “Everything’s Bigger in Texas” (and, in many ways it is), but what we don’t know is that no phrase has created more waste in the food industry than this one. Once restaurants started fighting on portion-size, offering up standard serving sizes that even a northern lumberjack would have trouble finishing, food waste skyrocketed. It’s estimated that as much as 50% of all waste dumped by a restaurant in a garbage bin is food. An average North American eats out 4 times a week, or 20% of the time. This says that the food service industry accounts for roughly 20% of food. If 50% of that is wasted, then the food industry wastes 10% of available food – or, as a whole, they are as bad as our retailers! If we as consumers stopped going to restaurants that served larger portions than we are going to eat, forcing them to either serve portions that were less likely to result in waste or go out of business, we could have a major impact.

I’m sure you’re saying “I put left-overs in the fridge”, and I’m sure you do, but do you eat them? Or do they sit there until they’re discovered growing a new species of mold a month later, and then hit the compost pile. As a fellow Haligonian points out, if you properly label food, understand that even mushy fruits and vegetables are still edible (and good for soups), and don’t buy or prepare more food than you can eat before it hits its expiry date, you can minimize your waste. And as for compost, if you mulch when you mow, and re-use your yard waste, you don’t really need that much!

The hot new trend, as noted by Scott Feschuk in a recent opinion piece in MacLeans is buying prepared meals from the grocery store that are ready to eat in minutes (or seconds). Just open them, pop them in the microwave and a-way you go. Now, TV Dinners have been around for a while, but they’re not the problem. (They are a problem, just of a different sort.) The problem is stuff like pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with the crust cut off. (What happened to the crust?) And store made offerings that lead to food waste when it doesn’t sell by the accelerated best-before date. At least at major food processing plants, if things are set up and run properly, food deemed unsuitable for sale to humans can often be converted into animal feed, which prevents it from being wasted. But at smaller plants and local supermarkets, if you’re lucky it just goes into the compost. If you’re not, it goes into the dumpster. So make the PB&J yourself – the nineteen seconds you spend popping the tops, spreading the peanut butter and jam, and screwing the tops back on really does help the planet – and the people on it.