In case you missed it, try to screen “Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story,” a documentary which premiered on MSNBC this week (trailer here). The film follows one couple’s quest to live on discarded or expired food, and showcases world food waste experts such as Dana Gunders (National Resources Defense Council), Johanthan Bloom (author of American Wasteland), and Tristam Stuart (feedbackglobal.org, Feeding the 5K campaign, and author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal). The couple succeeded in their task, by the way, and ate heartily (and gave some food away). For the entire 6-month period, they spent less than $200 for food worth $20,000.
The US and Europe have 150-200% of the food they actually need, wasting the land by over planting to supply peak demand periods. Although fruits and vegetables are the most wasted foods, their environmental impact pales in comparison to how much is wasted in the beef.
The amount of US-grown and -produced food that is wasted in the United States is a whopping 40%, costing $165 billion a year. The world as a whole wastes 30%. While most of us might jump to the conclusion that it is restaurants, grocery stores, and farms that are doing all the wasting, it is actually consumers, you and me, that are responsible for the waste of more than half. We demand perfection, not one blemish on any fruit or vegetable, and just toss away 20% of the food we do buy.
The role that food waste plays in climate change cannot be understated. A full 4% of all the energy used in the US goes to the production of the food that we toss. Moreover, the wasted food goes to landfills increasing harmful methane emissions. The water we waste to produce discarded food in this country each year could instead supply a year of water to 500 million people.
Watching this documentary should be required viewing so each us can start today to take an active role, at home and in our communities. It’s already motivated me to do more. Most of all, we are reminded that hunger, in your neighborhood or anywhere in the world, is a violation of human rights, and caused by inhumane politics. Corporations have a responsibility to get the excess food to those who need it, and we all have a responsibility to demand that they do.
Tomorrow, Part 2, will focus more on what you can do to make a difference, and the impact you can make in your own home and being volunteer and activist in this or any other movement trying to rescue our planet from the jaws of defeat.