My wife and I, she especially, hate to see food wasted. We grew up in that era when kids were told to eat your green beans because, “People in China were starving.” Our parents also made sure we were familiar with all those, “Waste not, want not,” and, “Take what you want, eat what you take,” kinds of things.
I don’t know if parents today still preach these things to their kids but they should be. It was just reported that in Europe and America about half of all the food we purchase is thrown away. Imagine that, while so many people in this nation and elsewhere are going to bed hungry the rest of us are filling up the landfills with food.
I’m sure there are many reasons of explaining such waste but a few I observe and am bothered by include strict adherence to date codes, ordering too much in restaurants, and refusal consume leftovers.
Date codes, in my mind, are not carved in stone food law. They are merely points of reference and do not mean that the package contents become inedible on a determined date. Because date codes exist however, contributes massively to the amount of food that goes unsold. Stores regularly have to screen their shelf contents and weed out whatever bears expired dates. I don’t know what happens to all this food but some of it is given to food pantries, some goes to the land fill, and some is re-marketed through surplus food stores such as our local “bent and dent” store.
For several years now we have spent a goodly portion of our food dollars at the bent and dent on foods that are slightly out of date or are in cans and containers that are slightly dented or marred. For the most part it is absolutely good food but many Americans wouldn’t consider purchasing it because they believe expired dates or dents in cans equate to botulism or something.
We eat out several times a week and are always amazed at the amount of food people order in restaurants and the amount they leave lying on their table as they head out into the world. If you’re not going to eat what you order why don’t you ask for a doggy bag? My waste not, want not spouse leaves noting behind if we don’t eat all our order, even the bread. If we order a sandwich we seldom eat the top of the bun. So, home it comes and the next morning it will reappear as French toast or croutons on a salad. Some would call us cheap but I call us getters of what we paid for.
There is a movement in many restaurants to recycle food waste. To separate it from other waste and turn it into garden mulch or compost. At least the earthworms derive some nutritional benefit from it.
We all know friends and family members who refuse to eat leftovers. I have a friend who won’t even feed leftovers to his dog. I saw him toss out half a hamburger at a fast food restaurant once and asked, “Why don’t you take that home for Fido?” His reply was, “Oh, Fido wouldn’t eat used food.” Well, I’ve known a lot of Fidos bud never one that would make the most out of a used hamburger patty.
On the other hand, in our household leftovers mean a break from cooking and a maximizing of the food dollar. When we cook a meal it is often with the deliberate thought of creating leftovers to reduce the week’s work load. We also don’t go to family get gatherings and leave uneaten food behind. Whatever is leftover gets divided between those who are interested and we always bring home our fair share.
That half the world’s food is wasted is a horrible piece of information. But Janet and I can take some solace in knowing that someone else is wasting our half. No food scraps go into the garbage can at our house. What little we don’t eat goes to the pets. If they don’t eat it maybe some raccoon or possum will. If no creature accepts the offering it gets tossed into the woods where the earthworms and other creepy crawlers and bacteria can have a go at it. Waste not, want not is alive and well in our little slice of paradise.