The Green Team would like to spotlight food waste for the next few weeks. Recent articles in National Geographic and the Washington Post have brought this issue to the forefront. While the facts may seem overwhelming, this is a problem on which we can have great impact both individually and as a faith community. After reading our problem statement, please share your ideas with us via email. We will work together over the coming weeks to address food waste in our community.
“…whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor.”
Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for our Common Home)
A.) FOOD WASTE
“More than a third of all of the food that’s produced on our planet never reaches a table. It’s either spoiled in transit or thrown out by consumers in wealthier countries, who typically buy too much and toss the excess. This works out to roughly 1.3 billion tons of food, worth nearly $1 trillion at retail prices.” (1) The United States wastes an estimated 40% of its food. Some of this comes from long transportation of and the unwillingness of customers to accept imperfect fruits and vegetables, a misunderstanding of “use by” dates, and restaurant/public waste. “Spills, spoilage, table scraps, and other losses from the typical American family of four add up to 1,160 pounds of uneaten food annually. The average family leaves uneaten each year more than enough to feed another person.” (2)
Meanwhile, one person, usually a child, dies from starvation or malnutrition every 4 minutes on this planet. 805 million people go to bed hungry every night. (3) “In the United States more than…two-thirds of families with food insecurity with children have at least one working adult—typically in a full-time job. The number of people going hungry has grown dramatically in the U.S., increasing to 48 million by 2012—a fivefold jump since the late 1960s, including an increase of 57 percent since the late 1990s. In 1980 there were a few hundred emergency food programs across the country; today there are 50,000.”(4) Around the world, hunger is a major cause of political instability.
C.) ENVIRONMENTAL COSTS
The environmental cost (fuels, fertilizers) of “producing so much wasted food is staggering. The energy that goes into the production, harvest, transportation, and packaging of wasted food produces more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.(5) The water wastage alone would be the equivalent of the entire annual flow of the Volga—Europe’s largest river. If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China.”(6)
D.) LANDFILLS & GREENHOUSE GASES
“Food waste is the second largest category of municipal solid waste (MSW) sent to landfills in the United States, accounting for approximately 18% of the waste stream. That is over 30 million tons of food waste that the U. S. sends to the landfills each year. Of the less than 3% of waste currently being diverted from landfills, most of it is being composted to produce a fertilizer.”(7) Rotting food waste in landfills is a major source of methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Landfills are responsible for about one-third of all methane emissions in the United States.(8)
E.) THE CHAIN OF FINANCIAL COSTS
We pay for food that is wasted. If we purchase food for our families and discard it, we have wasted our money. When grocery stores discard food, they have wasted their money, but that cost will be passed on to us, the customers. When a farmer discards vegetables that are considered “ugly,” his costs for growing them will be added to the remaining crop which we, the customers, ultimately pay.
CONSIDER INCLUDING THESE PRAYERS IN YOUR DAILY LIFE AS WE WORK TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE:
To be said while preparing a meal:
Creator God, as I prepare this meal in plenty, I pray for those parents around the world who know their children will go hungry this night.
To be said before a meal:
For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you thanks, O Lord.
(from Xavier University)
To add to your existing meal blessing:
All things come of thee, O God. We receive this bounty with humble hearts and remember our brothers and sisters around the world who go hungry tonight.
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)
- Smith, Roff, National Geographic “How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change” for Jan. 22, 2015
- Royte, Elizabeth, National Geographic “One Third of Food Is Lost or Wasted: What Can Be Done” Oct. 13, 2014 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141013-food-waste-national-security-environment-science-ngfood/
- McMillan, Tracie, National Geographic “New Face of Hunger” http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/hunger/
- Smith, National Geographic, op. cit.
- Royte, National Geographic, op. cit.
- “Turning food into Waste (Turning food into Waste at East Bay Municipal Utility District/ EPA)