10 January 2012

Let’s do something about food waste

Most of my Kriks Picks posts are not particularly time sensitive. Really the only posts that are time sensitive are ones about restaurants that have since closed.

But this one is about a fairly immediate topic.

On Jan. 14 and again on Jan. 15, the Food Network is airing a special called The Big Waste. (Click here for details.) It’s about how much food gets wasted in America. I caught most of the special when it aired earlier this week. It’s both fascinating and appalling.

The set-up  for the show was interesting. Four chefs compete to prepare a banquet using food that is going to be thrown away. For the most part, the food that they find is perfectly good food that is either unsalable or otherwise rejected because of minor imperfections or excessive variation in size or quality. (Examples: We see a butcher who is going to toss the odd-sized ends of beef short ribs after trimming them all to a uniform size. We see a farmer with a field of pick-your-own sweet corn who can’t sell it because a wind storm knocked down the stalks and now people won’t buy it.) As part of the set-up, a food safety inspector checks it all out and except for one item, approves the whole salvaged banquet as safe.

I’ve had some exposure to the issue of food waste. Anyone who’s worked on the hunger issue quickly becomes aware of how extensive food waste is in America. This show illustrates the problems that make food unsalable. But there’s also a lot of consumer waste – people who toss leftovers, or who buy more than they can eat before it goes bad, or who toss perfectly good food because they don’t have a realistic understanding of how long it can keep.

The show initiates the first step toward finding solutions by educating people about the problem. But that’s where it stops. It doesn’t do much to find ways to change behaviors.

After the show, I did some online investigation, and I discovered a blog called Wasted Food. It’s by an author who wrote a book called American Wasteland. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’m planning to download it to my new iPad.

The blog does include facts about food waste. It provides tips for consumers on how they can reduce waste. And it stimulates discussion of what can be done about food waste.

Please watch the show and think about what you can do to stop wasting food.

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