If I may dear reader, I’d like to tackle a topic about which I’ve become quite passionate: food waste.
The world we live in is full of treasures beyond imagining, both natural and man made and yet, even a cursory look at our behaviour would seem to damn us all to what Shakespeare’s Hamlet would have called an “antic disposition.”
Food waste, no matter the form, is madness in the extreme. Read on my friends and I think you’ll agree.
Recently I was watching an episode of “Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast,” a cooking / food program starring celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his friend Jimmy Doherty, a farmer and TV presenter. One of the segments of their show has them travelling across Britain looking for ways to fight food waste.
In this particular episode, the pair focused their attention on “ugly fruit and veg,” basically fruit and vegetables that are perfectly healthy and edible, but simply not “pretty enough” to be purchased by supermarkets.
During the segment, Jimmy brought up a statistic that left me absolutely stunned: approximately 30-40% of the produce grown in the UK is wasted due to the exacting standards of supermarket purchasers.
I shook my head in wonderment and horror. Thirty to forty percent! And only because a cucumber was bent, or because the peppers weren’t pristine! Utter madness! “Well at least that kind of thing doesn’t happen here,” I said to myself, trying to ignore the hint of smugness that had crept into my voice.
However, something began to gnaw at me. A tiny, persistent and nagging thought: “Does that kind of thing happen here?”
Finally I could ignore this thought no longer and I immediately went to Google / Skynet to inquire as to Canada’s behaviour in the area of food wastage.
What I found was sickening.
According to The food waste hierarchy as a framework for the management of food surplus and food waste in the Journal of Cleaner Production, 40% of the food produced here in Canada is wasted every year. That works out to $31 BILLION of food annually.
A 2014 report by the Value Chain Management Center states that almost HALF of that wastage occurs at home.
And yet, every month, over 850,000 Canadians are forced to make use of food banks just to survive, in what is now being euphemistically called “food insecurity.”
In fact, let’s take a moment and chat about that lovely little sobriquet shall we? “Food insecurity.” Apparently “hunger” wasn’t clear enough. Oh I know some bright spark will argue that it’s meant to address “a broader and more complex issue,” or some other vacuous twaddle, but let’s just call it what it is shall we? It’s a euphemism.
Back in the day, comedian George Carlin had a brilliant bit where he discussed a condition faced by soliders in World War I in which the nervous system has been stressed to the point where it cannot accept any more input. This condition was called “shell shock.” As he said so eloquently, “Almost sounds like the guns themselves.” He then went on to demonstrate how the same condition changed names over time, becoming longer and more vague. It went from “shell shock” to “battle fatigue.” From “battle fatigue” we moved on to the entirely sterile “operational exhaustion.” Finally the condition was stripped of any honesty it might have had and became known as “post-traumatic stress disorder.” To quote Carlin again, “And the pain is completely buried under jargon.”
Melodramatic? Perhaps, but my point here my dear reader is to illustrate how, when we wish to not deal with something, we simply give it a more pretentious, and often more sterile name. Let us hope the same doesn’t happen to “food insecurity.”
Anyway, back to my original point. Knowing that we here in Canada waste 40% of the food we produce is absolutely staggering. We should be ashamed of ourselves. But more importantly, we should be even more determined to end food waste, starting at home.
“But how?” I hear you ask.
Well, the David Suzuki Foundation has a fantastic list of simple steps we can all do at home to help end food waste.
However, inspired by Jamie and Jimmy’s crusade to end food waste, I’d like to focus primarily on fruit and vegetables, as they are the most “perishable” and therefore the most vulnerable to waste.
Obviously we should be shopping locally as much as is possible. This is not only good for our health, but good for local economies as well. Wal-Mart will do just fine without us methinks.
Another option, if a farmer’s market or local produce is not available, is to choose the less than perfect looking fruit and vegetables at your local supermarket. There’s nothing wrong with most of these, and you end up saving it from waste. I mean, if a zucchini is bent, who cares? You’re going to slice it up anyway!
Remember, supermarkets make purchasing decisions based on what we buy, so if we buy up all the “wonky” looking veg, they’re going to be more inclined to bring in more. This helps farmers who don’t have to waste perfectly good product, and quite often the “ugly” produce is cheaper.
Ladies and gentlebeings, there is no reason why ANYONE in this country (or any other for that matter) should ever be hungry. We have wealth beyond the dreams of avarice and it’s long past time we began sharing it with our fellow humans.
In the end, if we have enough to waste, we have enough to give. If we continue on the way we’re going… well then King Lear was correct:
“O, that way madness lies…”