No, this isn’t a movie script, or even a review. But it is a sequel. The last article left us with staggering facts about food waste and a glimpse of hope. This time I want to talk about how we have a chance to help combat massive food waste that leaves people starving and the environment a wreck. I know the title sounds a bit like a movie you might watch on the sci-fi channel, if at all, but this is no Dora the Explorer type solution. No shouting answers at the TV and her pretending to hear you and saying, “That’s right, ___” no matter what one says. These are just two topics in the food waste issue with fairly pragmatic opportunities to help oneself, the environment, and others.
The first issue I want to address is one of aesthetics. I’ve touched on it in the previous article, so I’m just going to give it a quick look before going on to the other topic. Of the 31% of food wasted in this country , 0% percent of that is food left unharvested because of aesthetic reasons. This isn’t to say that no food gets rejected because it’s only an 8 or 9 instead of a perfect 10. No, it’s just that food doesn’t even get counted, bringing the waste total closer to horrifying 40% .
So what can one do about this? Well, I suppose one could eat food that’s perfectly good but doesn’t give you butterflies in one’s stomach when one looks at it. The truth is, unless one is eating something both raw and whole, food doesn’t generally resemble its original form once prepared. If it did, there’d be no such thing as mashed potatoes. True, your cousin couldn’t mash up a banana and stir it into said mashed potatoes to see what people will do when they eat them, but how often does that happen really? By eating food that doesn’t look like it came from a lab, we can do our part to cut down on a substantial portion of wasted food. Anyway, if we took nature out of food, eventually, we’d be left with Soylent Green.
The second issue hinges on food that gets harvested but never eaten. The solution? Pre-selling produce. Normally, a group or individual guesses how much of a given product should be grown, harvested, or purchased at each level of the farmer -> distributor -> retailer -> consumer chain (and any steps in between). Anyone who guesses wrong gets left holding the bag for a potentially sizable loss. With pre-selling, produce stays ‘on the vine’ until purchased. The farmer then harvests only what’s needed, and the rest of the produce stays fresh in the field instead of rotting unwanted somewhere. Ok, cool, but how does that help anyone?
For starters, food stays fresh longer while it’s still, well, alive; that way, food that can be eaten later can still be eaten later. Not only does the supply of food in a starving world improve, but both the environment and humans benefit. Environmentally, natural resources like water and land are better used, because resources don’t go to food that slowly moves to the landfill. Speaking of landfills, less food ends up there, reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in the United States. Economically, we should see an improvement, too. Reduction of waste means a reduction of overhead, which I would hope in turn reduces price. A plethora of reasons to reduce food waste is out there, but that’s really more of a subject for another article .
In most cases, each layer between the farmer and consumer adds waste, ranging from just a bit to a sizable chunk. Now, each individual contacting each farmer directly to order precisely what one needs and then going to pick it up is hardly pragmatic for anyone involved. But if you could find a single entity to speak to all the farmer’s for you, then pre-selling produce could become an effective way to reduce waste while guaranteeing you the freshest produce possible. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the easiest and most effective way in our area. Yup, it’s Papa Spud’s. You order, we tell the farmers, they harvest, and we bring the goods to your door. Pre-selling produce is a major tenant of the way we do business because it lets us help the environment, local farmers, and you. Whenever you open your box, you’re participating in an agricultural model that benefits your society and your planet as a whole, all the while receiving produce harvested just for you.
To wrap things up, I want to get honest with you. I’m no caped crusader fighting food related societal problems or someone trying to get in your face about your personal responsibility in some big issue. Really, it goes something more like this: I become aware of a problem. I do some research, and maybe even get slightly worked up about the issue. Then life happens and my efforts may start to fall to the wayside. But when I write about it, I have to do something about it. I don’t want to be a food waster, but I definitely don’t want to be a hypocrite. That might sound stupid or weak-willed, but life is exhausting and every little bit of motivation helps. So on the one hand, articles like this are a pledge to try and do a little better in my own life. But they also serve as an invitation to join together with me in trying to make a difference, even if it seems like a small one. We won’t always do things perfectly, but every little bit helps. Oh, and on the plus side, this time the responsible choice may actually be easier than the alternative.