By: Kai Vieira da Rosa
Americans love food. Food culture has become integrated into the American psyche. Aside from eating food, we write about it, we travel for it, and we accessorize our love for it on our clothes and hats. Now it seems eating has changed from a primal instinct to a mere recreational event that Americans often take for granted.
The ability to have a variety of food at one’s fingertips is a luxury, but it comes with a cost. Food is wasted at an amazing rate in the United States, dwarfing all other countries.
According to Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month.”
With all the food that is thrown out every year, it is a shame that people in America are going hungry. The lack of a consistent intake of healthy foods is known as food insecurity, which affects millions Americans a year.
College students are some of the most at-risk groups for food insecurity. Students need to be aware that there are other students in their classes who aren’t getting enough to eat.
Food insecurity has gotten so bad among college students that it is present on nearly every college campus in America.
According the scholarly article “How Many College Students Are Going Hungry? “By Steve Kolowich, “Studies on campuses have yielded a range of figures, from 14 percent at the University of Alabama to 59 percent at Western Oregon University.”
Part of this is due to the fact that many students throw out food, not because it was spoiled, but because it was unwanted.
According to NPR’s reporter Linda Poon, “College campuses as a group throw out a total of 22 million pounds of uneaten food each year.”
It is important to remember that not every person has the ability to buy endless amounts of food, or be able to throw away still good meals.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “12.3 percent (15.6 million) of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during 2016.”
To fight American food waste and hunger at the same time, donate unused food to a local food bank or campus food pantry instead of throwing it out.
Donating food could mean helping the person sitting next to you in your class.
According to the Bellingham Food Bank, “we are visited by more than 1,350 Bellingham families every week.”
The habits Americans have when it comes to buying food contribute to huge amounts of waste. Americans tend to ignore imperfect produce because they have a preconceived notion that all food is supposed to look perfect. Produce is often thrown out simply because it doesn’t look as appealing.
Over shopping and overbuying is another habit Americans possess that leads to food waste. Whether it is shopping for your house, or ordering a meal at a restaurant, Americans often overdo it.
With the wide range of food in stock at giant stores like Costco, WinCo and Fred Meyer, people tend to buy more than they need and end up tossing much of it out later. Due to this abundance, many Americans take their meals for granted.
According to Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council “cheap, available food has created behaviors that do not place high value on utilizing what is purchased. As a result, the issue of wasted food is simply not on the radar of many Americans, even those who consider themselves environment or cost-conscious.”
People often discard food that is perfectly good because they don’t know what to do with it.
Donating food is a great way to prohibit wasting food, but this only works with non-perishable items. Perishables usually can’t be donated due to their short shelf life, so often they are just thrown out.
Produce and perishable items are being discarded at an alarming rate, but crafty chefs and consumers are finding ways around this.
Some chefs have created a movement called “trash-to-table” which uses discarded food as the main ingredients for creative, gourmet dishes.
A pop-up restaurant in New York City chef created by Dan Barber was packed for days, despite the fact that every meal was made by what is considered the waste of another restaurant.
According to Time Magazine reporter Brad Tuttle, “The waste sums up what was on the menu, which consisted entirely of things that are usually considered inedible rubbish.”
Although the idea of this sounds rancid, the amount of usable fresh food that is thrown out is even more disgusting.
The trend of dumpster diving for food and donating unwanted items gives new meaning to the saying one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.