Food Waste Grows With the Middle Class
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
FEB. 27, 2015
Massive food waste by humanity is an undisputed fact documented daily in tons of discarded scrapings from dinner plates around the world. It is now being measured as a serious threat to the global environment and economy, with an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world left uneaten at a cost of up to $400 billion a year in waste disposal and other government costs.
The food discarded by consumers and retailers in just the most developed nations would be more than enough to sustain all the world’s 870 million hungry people if effective distribution methods were available.
Unfortunately, most of the uneaten food goes to landfills where it decomposes and produces the dangerous greenhouse gas methane at a volume that amounts to an estimated 7 percent of the total emissions contributing to the global warming threat. This puts food waste by ordinary humans in third place in methane emissions behind the busy economies of China and the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. These stark facts have been laid out in a new report from the Waste and Resources Action Program, or WRAP, a British antiwaste organization. The organization warns that the problem is getting worse because the global middle class is, fortunately enough, expanding. According to the report, by 2030, consumer food waste will cost an estimated $600 billion a year — a 50 percent increase from current costs — unless there is a wide effort to change the trend.
Numerous antiwaste programs are underway, from backyard composting to restaurant donations to food pantries, from London’s campaign to cut food waste by 50 percent in five years to fish-drying innovations in West Africa that prevent spoilage. Reducing food waste by 20 percent to 50 percent could save an estimated $120 billion to $300 billion a year, according to the WRAP report.
This would take far more action by national and local governments, food producers and, most of all, consumers unaware of the mounting costs of their dinner scraps.
Of course this is the issue is it the growth of the middle class or literally the growth of our population and in turn the quest and need to belong to a higher class and that only bridge is consumption and that has now been relegated to food as the singular bridge. What little is left of one's disposible income is usually spent on "luxuries" and food is a luxury. Look at the shows and networks dedicated to food preparation and ultimate consumption. You would think everyone has an advanced pallet with a commercial kitchen available to indulge any current epicurean trend that is delighting the hoi polloi. Funny the 1% has just as pedantic tastes as the 99%, reading this little ditty about Warren Buffet I found quite an amusee bouche.
Or is that we have no time to actually cook food, that much food is consumed in cars, on the road and is utterly disposable both literally and metaphorically.
Much is made of farm to kitchen. When has anyone been to a farm lately? What about the green spaces and in turn in city gardens that could be used in public schools, homes for the elderly or the poor? Don't know of any? Well I have seen some then they fall into the developers hands and disappear or relocate. For the record I have actually never seen anyone working in a pea patch other than the one directly adjacent to my home. There is one attached to a local community center and it has goods but I am not sure if these are privately held ones or who or how they are maintained. It also has a professional hive but I have yet to meet the beekeeper. The alternative school located there was intending to do some of this but was told that this is not something the district wanted to engage in. Another alternative school with at risk kids claimed to be doing the same and selling the produce at the local farmers market then the farmers were robbed, the local community has decided to transform the area into a public park aka gateway to turn the blight into something the community can use.
I see few active Greenhouses used in schools and they exist but once thriving programs often maintained as both a curriculum and in turn after school program are too falling by the wayside. I have no idea if it is funding issue or simply disinterest or a combination of both.
Food has become a gross inequity and by gross I mean literally as in large and not attractive. I see more fat people daily swilling large Starbucks drinks, sodas and eating Chipolte as I do seeing people nosh on coddled eggs gathered from the neighbors coop. Seattle is a pretentious town and they book and the cover don't match well here. But I love the farmer's markets and frequent them religiously year round. But I grew up in house that cooked, emphasized cooking, had a full garden and cared deeply about eating. I went to a farm annually where my father had grown up. He wanted me to know who picked and processed my food and when we went out to eat to know how the food came too the table not just the farm it came from. In other words recognizing all those responsible from Chefs, to Waitresses to bussers. We were a working class family and that was all part of our legacy and history and role in society. Today's working class is pseudo middle class and they are barely floating letting alone treading water so drinking it is low on the priority scale.
Waste not want not. There are children starving in China. These were the mantras I grew up. Bless this food. There are many connections I have to eating and sharing food. Composting was not a novel concept it was a necessary one for the garden.
I can't say this is an industrial problem alone it is a societal one. One of many.
Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says
By RON NIXON
FEB. 25, 2015
WASHINGTON — With millions of households across the country struggling to have enough to eat, and millions of tons of food being tossed in the garbage, food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.
A report released Wednesday shows that about 60 million metric tons of food is wasted a year in the United States, with an estimated value of $162 billion. About 32 million metric tons of it end up in municipal landfills, at a cost of about $1.5 billion a year to local governments.
The problem is not limited to the United States.
The report estimates that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed, and the total cost of that food waste could be as high as $400 billion a year. Reducing food waste from 20 to 50 percent globally could save $120 billion to $300 billion a year by 2030, the report found.
“Food waste is a global issue, and tackling it is a priority,” said Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at the Waste and Resources Action Program, or Wrap, an antiwaste organization in Britain that compiled the new report. “The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings.”
The food discarded by retailers and consumers in the most developed countries would be more than enough to feed all of the world’s 870 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
But it is not just those countries that have problems with food waste. The report showed that it is also an issue in African countries like South Africa.
The problem is expected to grow worse as the world’s population increases, the report found. By 2030, when the global middle class expands, consumer food waste will cost $600 billion a year, unless actions are taken to reduce the waste, according to the report.
Food waste is not only a social cost, but it contributes to growing environmental problems like climate change, experts say, with the production of food consuming vast quantities of water, fertilizer and land. The fuel that is burned to process, refrigerate and transport it also adds to the environmental cost.
Most food waste is thrown away in landfills, where it decomposes and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Globally, it creates 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, about 7 percent of the total emissions, according to the report.
The United Nations agency points out that methane gas from the world’s landfills are surpassed in emissions by only China and the United States.
“Seven percent is not the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, but it’s not an insignificant amount,” said Helen Mountford, the director of economics at the World Resources Institute. “But this is one area — reducing food waste — where we can make a difference.”
Over the last several years, some cities and counties in the United States, including New York City, have started programs to tackle the issue. Hennepin County, Minn., the state’s most populous county, provides grants from $10,000 to $50,000 to local business and nonprofits to help recycle food products or turn them into compost.
“There is still a lot in the waste stream,” said Paul Kroening, supervising environmentalist at Hennepin County Environmental Services. “We are just scratching the surface.”
A coalition of food industry trade groups, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, has also increased effort to combat food waste. Meghan Stasz, the director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a member of the alliance, said the group was working with supermarket chains to reduce waste by clarifying expiration dates and selling smaller portions of food.
Ms. Stasz said the group was also getting its members to donate more food and make changes in manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of wasted food. One member, the giant food company ConAgra, changed the way it placed dough in shell for its pot pies and saved 235 tons of dough in a year.
Mr. Swannell, of the antiwaste group Wrap, applauded those efforts, but said more still needed to be done.
“Awareness of food waste has risen, but we need to do more to tie that awareness to actions on the ground,” he said. “We need to find better ways to deal with food waste, but we need to prevent it in the first place.”