I’ve always known that there are major societal problems facing us as Americans—and around the world. War, pollution, poverty, human exploitation, hunger and unemployment are big themes of serious issues that plague our communities. But because I work in the food industry, I tend to focus the most on eliminating hunger.
As I have become more self-conscious and enlightened, thinking about these problems on a global level seems daunting and downright impossible for one person to tackle. Instead, I have taken on the belief that in order to achieve big changes, and solve big problems globally, we must start with impacting our own local neighborhoods. Hopefully, this will create a strong enough wave that reaches beyond our immediate surroundings and inspires others to know that we all possess power to make change happen.
That’s my starting point: Think locally to make change globally.
To me the task of eliminating hunger in America—and maybe elsewhere around the world—starts with our own perceptions and attitudes around food. I was raised to make my own bed… and this built a foundation of caring, discipline and responsibility. I was also brought up not to waste food, and “don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach.” (If you’re not from the South, this is a way of saying “don’t take so much food that you can’t finish it and wind up wasting it.”) But somehow, this message is not being shared widely.
One of the first alarm bells to go off for me is the amount of food waste we produce. It is estimated that in America alone we waste up to 133 billion pounds of food a year, which is about 30-40% of what we purchase. Stay with me for a moment… I can’t name a single product we use where we would accept a 30% loss on a regular basis. Therefore, I can only conclude the following:
- We are buying too much food.
- The stores are selling us too much food.
- We are inherently wasteful.
- We don’t correctly preserve food.
We are buying too much food.
To me, this might be the number one problem in addressing our own wastefulness. It’s way too easy to go to the big stores and purchase bulk packages of food. We figure we are getting a deal! “All of this for just $3.99?” But in reality, if we are wasting 1/3 of it, we probably aren’t realizing that savings. Instead, I personally shop for one or two days at a time. That is, unless there is a snowstorm… Then, well, it’s every North Carolinian for themselves!
The stores are selling us too much food.
Maybe this is the chicken before the egg. If we are buying too much food, someone must be selling it to us. I admit, it’s easy to fall victim to a sale tag on the half-gallon tub of ice cream, all for only $1.99! I could never finish that all by myself, and inevitably half of it would end up in the garbage. I hardly ever finish an entire loaf of bread… and a basket of fresh berries often ends up with mold at the bottom. Maybe I only want seven strawberries… I can only hope that smaller portions and sizes will be available to help us in the food waste battle.
We are inherently wasteful.
Well, this is one concept I don’t agree with. I mean, early humans were very resourceful. Further, I can’t imagine anyone during the Great Depression wasting food. And I’m reminded of the sacrifices Americans made at home during the World Wars to preserve food and resources. However, I do think the idea of making as much money as possible may contribute to waste, greed and indifference. Many places, such as my own company, are adopting zero-waste policies. Can’t we begin to have this in our own homes—with our own food?
We don’t preserve food correctly.
I can’t be the only person who’s left the milk out all day, only to find it spoiled in the afternoon. Or who’s sacrificed meats and vegetables to freezer burn. Mistakes will be made. But proper food preservation is just as important as not buying too much or not wasting what we have. Wrap it up tightly, then refrigerate or freeze it properly.
Changing our attitudes is the first step toward eliminating hunger.
There are organizations that accept food and monetary donations to help feed the hungry. There are employment and educational programs that support these efforts as well. I am a major contributor in both time and resources to many of these efforts locally. But I like to think that if we start at home by learning to respect the food that we consume, it could go a long way to educating the next generation about the importance of food consumption, preservation, and sustainability… and further support our efforts in eliminating hunger—one meal at a time.