The Food Elephant in The Room: Where Does It All Go?

One supermarket in Finland, which is a part of a 900 store chain, has recently started “Happy Hour”. It is described as the hour before closing, when the store offers deep discounts on hundreds of items that are approaching their expiration dates. Last night, I walked into a bakery in New York at 7 pm and was pleasantly surprised that my cheese Danish was half price. The owner explained to me that his parents, who survived WWII, taught him by example that food should never be discarded. A third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, so the baker sells everything at 50% off before closing and donates the rest to the local food bank to minimize waste.

I was surprised to read that according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, close to a third of the food produced and packaged for human consumption is lost or wasted. In the United States, nine out of ten supermarket chains that were reviewed by the nonprofit; The Center for Biological Diversity, were given a C grade or lower on food- waste.

My generation found nothing wrong with eating leftovers, and considered the careless destruction of food, including the cutting down of a fruit bearing tree, to be a sin. I learned that nature loving people do not destroy anything- even a mustard seed – and my appreciation of conservation has its roots in this respect for trees and even mustard seeds.

food, produce, waste, nonprofit

Fall is the harvest time in farms across the fruited plains. But according to a research study at the University of Santa Clara, California, an incredible 33% goes unharvested. This not only wastes food, but also has wasted the farmer’s hard work, fuel, seed, water, and fertilizer.

To make matters worse, we now have a food insecurity problem. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 40 million households in America are “food insecure”, which they define “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active healthy life”.

This begs the question, is there really not enough food available, or are we really just wasting it and not providing it to those who seem to need it the most. A definite answer can’t be given as to whether there is a certain correlation between the food insecurity issue and the high food waste percentage that we have come to find normal. However, it is pretty obvious that we do need to address both of these issues and how they came to be in order to progress as a society.

Educating ourselves to the issues is definitely a step in the right direction, as well as helping nonprofits and programs trying to deal with the immediate issues caused by food insecurity such as families going hungry. Nonprofit organizations such as Joy’s Kitchen, which was mentioned in a previous publishing, and others do their part to provide these families with leftover produce and resources that can provide a meal. Everyone can do their part though, whether it is through raising awareness of these issues or assisting the resource centers trying to help.

About the Author: Jake Tewel holds a Masters Degree from YU, a wine seller, caterer and a million miler for the past 15 years. Jake is a best friend, great neighbor, your go to travel person, father, grandfather and loving husband. He is now focusing his efforts on heart healthy nutrition, exercise and travel.