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The Big Waste – Do We Expect Perfection?

January 17, 2012

Sunday afternoon I found myself in my normal routine – sitting on my bed and attempting to do homework while I watched the food channel. Normally multi tasking is something I do well, but I found myself being captivated by a Food Network special called The Big Waste.

In this special two pairs of chefs competed against each other to cook a gourmet meal for 100 people using only food that is going to be thrown away. I sat enthralled as the chefs gathered tomatoes, fish, flour, trimmings of meat, eggs, peaches and many other food items. Some of this food came from distributors, grocers, or directly from the farms themselves. One chef even ventured out with a ‘freegan’ and dumpster dived for food behind grocery stores.

Much of the food was past its sell by date, but still perfectly edible, others had slight imperfections. Furthermore some of the food was discarded and thrown on the ground by consumers because it wasn’t perfect enough.

Many of these tomatoes were discarded because of cracked skin, however, there is nothing wrong with them. The fruit grew too fast and the skin did not have time to stretch, causing the cracking.

The reality of this is that every day one billion people go to bed hungry, while America’s grocery stores, restaurants, and food distributors throw out 27 million tons of food per year.

That’s about 200 pounds per person, per year. Among this number is five billion eggs thrown out, because they are too big or small, and may have the wrong color and countless fruits and vegetables thrown out for the exact same reasons.

Not only is this food waste disheartening with the large amount of hungry people in the world, but it’s also healthy food. You see people struggling to buy healthy food constantly, and here are all of these fruits and vegetables just thrown away.

So what’s the solution? If I could wave a magic wand and create a non-profit that uses this discarded food to run a soup kitchen, or food pantry I would. Chefs could be trained in how to use everything when they cook, and consumers educated that just because there are minor imperfections on food it doesn’t mean that something is wrong.

One company owner said we’ve “trained American consumers to expect perfection.” This program certainly opened my eyes to food waste. Next time I’m at the grocery store I won’t discard a tomato because it has a cracked skin, and I will certainly find ways to use all parts of food when I’m cooking. What will you do to reduce your food waste?


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