Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Food from trash

Have you ever been dumpster diving before? I certainly have. One winter, I ate like a king every day - I dumpster dove at the local Trader Joe's. Wine, lemonade, cheeses, breads, micro-greens, oranges, cereals, flowers and so much more were freely available to anyone that cared to just wait until midnight when the last employees of Trader Joe's left after cleaning. That winter, I reckon I spent only $100 at an actual store (i.e. the People's Food Coop) on things like milk and butter.

I am reminded of this winter because yesterday, on the best show on the radio, The Story, Jeremy Seifert talked about his recent attempts at trying to reduce food wastage in America. He mentioned that more than 100 billion pounds of food are wasted each year in USA alone. I'm sorry, did you read that correctly? 100 billion pounds. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation tells me, very conservatively, that that is enough food for more than 60 million people (assuming 180 lb people, eating their own body weight every 40 days). Well, that's a shame. On average, we throw away approximately a quater of the food we buy. Did you read that correctly? A quarter. What is it about the culture in USA that allows it to be morally and ethically acceptable to waste so much food? I can think of several reasons.
1) We don't know where our food comes from. Food just seems to magically appear in the grocery store. We don't know about the effort it takes to create food.
2) We have lost touch with nature and with the capacities of our bodies. Why would we throw away a whole head of broccoli if just one little part of it is bruised? Why do most people just superficially eat an apple and not just the whole thing (maybe barring the seeds), core and all? In the end, it is just all food, and your body can handle things being me.
3) We have a skewed understanding of what food is supposed to look like. This is similar to the previous point, to some extent. But further, who really cares if the carrot is two-pronged, or if the tomato is not a perfect ellipsoid? Your body doesn' me.
4) We love laws. In the name of "public health" and "cleanliness" we have standards for what sorts of food are acceptable to be eaten and served and sold, and what not.

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