By Djuwanna Pearson-Frazier for SUST 210*
I have never understood our levels of food waste in America. As I think about watching over the years how restaurants and high end hotels throw away perfectly good packaged and cooked food, it saddens my heart to think that such food could have gone to someone less fortunate. According to this April 2012 article in the Chicago Tribune, Jeremy Seifert a cook and lobbyist stated, “It’s such a shame how much food is thrown away at a retail level.” Seifert has lobbied big grocery store chains and has pleaded with these stores to donate more and throw away less. He goes on to say, “When I had encounters with store employees, they treated me like subhuman scum. But I think the shame should be the other way around. It should be on the people throwing it away.”
He’s exactly right: one hotel in downtown Chicago who shall remain nameless makes sure that their garbage disposal is at least 12 feet off the ground to ensure that homeless people or dumpster divers are unable to eat what was thrown away. I feel these acts are selfish. If more people were educated about what they could do differently, it would make a ton of difference in terms of the food waste we produce.
People don’t have to go dumpster diving, as that may be too extreme for some — but we can pay attention to how we cook and when and how we buy our groceries, compost our food scraps after a meal, and reuse what you have to make a meal. Some of these techniques and idea aren’t new; they’re what our mothers and grandparents did routinely. It’s time that we recycle those gumbo and soup recipes and make them our own. Tribune reporter Monica Eng states in the aforementioned article, “As we’ve seen with recycling, when people wrap their mind around a simple environmental behavior change, that change can make an impact.” The graph below shows that in 2010 alone, more than 34 million tons of food waste were generated in the United States.
Educational curriculum needs to start teaching children the importance of sustaining today’s environment for tomorrow. The tools are out there, from videos on “Dumpster Diving” to a book called Empty about a little girl trapped here on Earth after all the natural resources have been used up. It’s time we take a stand!
Submitted 19 Apr 2013
* Each week during the Spring 2013 semester, two to three students in the SUST 210 Sustainable Future online/Schaumburg class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website. Also see this discussion of food waste here in previous articles on this blog and in this section of the website.