Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wasting Food - Something to Ponder After We Over-eat on Thanksgiving

I personally enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, for it is a good chance to be with family and reflect on how much they mean to me. There is also a side benefit, one where we are able to dine in the extreme with an overabundance of delicious homemade turkey dinner. As with any large meal, particularly with numerous children participating in the festivities, I cannot help but notice there is a good amount of food being thrown out, as stomachs fill more quickly than the original estimate one's eyes make just prior to eating. But until I read a story summarizing a new estimate of how much food Americans throw out, I had no idea of the true waste I have witnessed.

Americans throw out approximately 40% of the food produced in the U.S. This is a staggering number, but it is the result of a study done by researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This translates into 1400 calories of food per day per person, or some 150 trillion calories per year of wasted food and nutrition. This is happening in a time where, with the economic crisis that has unfolded since 2007, an additional 2 million Americans have been added to the rolls of those who do not have enough to eat every day, going from 4.7 million to 6.7 million people just in two years. This is an estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Worldwide, about one billion people go without adequate amounts of food.

There is an oversupply of food in the U.S., and it has led to some noteworthy health problems such as widespread obesity, increased amounts of heart disease and diabetes, and I would hypothesize our poor diets with food excess play some role in the shorter life spans Americans see when compared to other wealthy nations, where diet selection and choice is healthier than what many Americans choose.

As a citizen in the wealthiest nation the world has ever seen, I am thankful for the opportunity to walk into countless stores and be able to select as much food for myself and my family as we can stand. Our grocery stores are considered in many countries around the world to be centers of unimaginable volume of food that will not ever be realized in those countries. Perhaps it is time to recognize this overabundance and figure out how to better distribute food in order to use the waste we now produce to actually be put to use and feed some of those billion hungry world citizens, many of whom are children. Many experts argue there is enough food being produced worldwide to feed the global population, but the way it is distributed and managed and taken for granted in certain regions of the world leads to vast waste. We can and must do better, in order to allow as many individuals to have the opportunity to enjoy the life given to them, rather than going hungry and having no hope of pursuing their dreams. Let's try to become more thoughtful of how much food we waste, and begin to trim the volume of food we take each meal. Let's purchase what we will actually consume, and let's encourage restaurants to actually serve smaller portions than the mountain of food a typical meal includes, and which so few costumers can actually finish without being bloated.

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