Adrienne BoettingerTuesday,15 October 2013

The Snap:

Tens of thousands of dead cattle and no federal assistance for ranchers. Years of cancer research down the drain. Approximately $160 million a day lost because of campaign fears for Congressional elections still a year away. The wastefulness of the U.S. government shutdown has me thinking not just about the waste of space that many elected officials have turned out to be. Watching our government waste opportunities and resources makes me think of all of our roles in waste. On 16 October, we should do more than think about it. Not because we’ll be just a day away from the self-inflicted debt ceiling disaster but because 16 October is World Food Day.

The Download:

In college, one of my roommates was insanely thrifty. I’m all for spending wisely but she had a tendency to buy grey “X-tra Valu” meat and produce that had already expired. The rest of the apartment decided to make a meal entirely out of these products but our frugal friend was nowhere to be found that evening. In retaliation, when she returned we laid down on the floor, expired corncobs clenched in our fists and ketchup dribbling out of the corners of our mouths. Sadly, she proved immune to the “guilt” of our fake deaths and the following week, purchased Day-Glo orange margarine made out of parking cones.

Was she a bit extreme? Hells yeah. But she had the right idea. Annually, 40 percent of food in the United States is never eaten. U.S. per capita waste has shot up 50 percent since 1974. If we cut waste by only 5 percent, we could feed 4 million people; cuts of 15 percent would mean we could feed 25 million. We’re not alone in this. Globally, we waste 4 billion tons of food each year. For non-treehuggers who want to understand what’s in it for them, American households lose more than $50 billion annually in food waste (209-254 lbs. of food waste per American per year). The food waste clogs up landfills, produces obscene amounts of methane gas and ensures that future generations will pay for our wastefulness.

World Food Day was established by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to reinvigorate political will to end hunger. Don’t worry – the political will part doesn’t mean we have to rely on Congress to actually do something. We can all make a difference. Contrary to what my mother used to suggest, I’m not encouraging you to send your leftovers to the poor. Try to reduce your own food waste and maybe use some of the dollars you’ll save to help your local food bank.  Or buy “funny fruit” rather than searching for that not-found-in-nature, perfect apple. 30 percent of what’s harvested never makes it to the grocery store and we throw out 30-50 percent of what we buy and bring home.

Check here and here to see other ways you can help out on World Food Day and beyond.

Want to end waste in Washington? Contact your Congresspersons with your opinions on their role in the shutdown.

Take Action!

Hat Tips:

NPRThe AtlanticBloombergEat Drink BetterWashington PostUN FAOAFPHuffington PostWorld Food Day USANourish NowUSA.gov, Image Credit: Flickr

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