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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Waste Amid Want

In his new book "American Wasteland," writer Jonathan Bloom documents how so much food produced in America is wasted along every step of the supply chain from field to fridge. Somewhere between 25-50% of all food produced in America, he says, goes to waste every year.

Journalist and author Bloom documents specific examples, beginning with food crops lying rotting in fields owing to intentional policy, economic factors, and sheer ignorance. And in restaurants, portion sizes have become ever larger and daily buffet meals result in enormous amounts of delicious leftover food being thrown away at the end of every day.

Unlike my mother, who believed wasting food was a mortal sin, Bloom points out how many Americans allow food to spoil in their refrigerators out of carelessness, lack of meal planning, and just plain neglect.

He does find hopeful signs, though, in some grocery stores and restaurants disposing of their surplus through food pantries and other charities. And some socially conscious farmers are even reviving the ancient practice of allowing those in need to glean from their fields after a harvest.

What makes food waste especially appalling is that while in developed nations like ours we throw away massive amounts of food, people all over the globe are starving. Every day we see TV images of dying children and gaunt mothers dying of malnutrition in Somali refugee camps--interspersed with ads urging already overweight Americans to gorge on super-sized burgers and fries and to make yet another trip to an abundance laden supermarket or a restaurant buffet. 

Bloom believes we have trained ourselves to regard food as a symbol of American plenty that should always be available cheaply in all seasons and times, and in limitless quantities. He warns, "Current rates of waste and population growth can't coexist much longer," and makes practical suggestions on how we can all help "keep our Earth and its inhabitants physically and morally healthy."

My mother would like that.

P. S.  Here are some agencies that can help provide urgently needed food relief:  http://www.care.org/    http://www.mcc.org/, http://www.oxfamamerica.org/
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