On Saturday, I watched a show on the Food Network called "The Big Waste". If you did not catch it already, please make it a point to watch this pivotal show. Four famous chefs are split into 2 teams, and then given the challenge of feeding 100 people using only products that would be considered food waste by grocery stores, bakeries, butchers, etc. The chefs start out by talking about how they are concerned they will not be able to find enough food to use. What they find is an entirely different situation. It hardly seems that the chefs have to work to find food that is about to be wasted.
In America, we have been trained that our fresh food should look perfect, and that we can not buy products that have a sell by date that is anything less that 5 days in the future. The truth is, most food has imperfections. Imperfections are not bad, they are just a natural part of the food growing process. Most imperfections do not impact the flavor or quality of the food, but they do impact how we perceive food. If there is a slight mark, we will assume that it has gone bad.
What if I told you, in fact, that you are actually missing out on some of the best produce, just because it "isn't up to standards"?
The show also highlighted a man who considers himself a "freegan", a man who gets all of his sustenance from food that others waste. He routinely sifts through the trash behind grocery stores and finds large amounts of produce that is perfectly fit for consumption.
This show made me pretty sad. We live in a country with dire food issues. On one end of the spectrum, we have people with obesity issues, people who may not understand proper nutrition, and are not eating a healthy diet. On the other end of the spectrum, there are thousands of people suffering from hunger. And instead of this "waste" aka perfectly good food going to help those in need, it is going in the garbage, and we are feeding people in need processed shelf-stable food that further contributes to our trending obesity issue.
Does anyone else see a major problem with a simple solution? Why don't we teach people how to work with food with blemishes? Why don't we give food that is not quite perfect to the food banks that are seeing record shortages? Why don't we teach people how to cook something that does not come out of a box or a can?
The real answer is very political indeed. But instead of getting into that today (we will get there, believe me), let's just hope that it is because nobody is considering this as an option. So, if you are bold, I ask you to consider the problem of food waste, and what steps you could take to see it significantly reduced in your community. While I would love to think that my community is above such waste, I now this notion might be unrealistic. One thing I will be interested to see this summer is how much of the food produced on the farm I invest in through a CSA handles food waste, and how much of their crops they choose to waste each season on the compost pile.