I love when elites at green sites put guilt trips on ordinary folks.

Yes, these types of articles are needed to educate citified yuppies who love organic food and green living but are blithely unaware that these practices were routine in the days of their grandparents and remain routine in poorer areas of the country or the world.

So Smart Planet has a headline bemoaning that half of the food in America is “wasted’, and they imply that the reason is that consumers are too fussy, or that restaurants throw away a lot of food..

The world throws away up to half of its food according to an alarming report that blames consumers’ fussy preference for cosmetically appealing produce, supermarket promotions that encourage overbuying, and deficient storage, transportation and agricultural practices.

missing in the article: How much food that this article claims is discarded because it is imperfect (those nasty rich folks want perfect veggies)  is actually separated and used elsewhere?

And how much food is discarded because it is stale/dangerous to eat or infested with inseccts/mold/vermin? Food poisoning is not exactly a rare problem, even in the USA.In a world worrying about a food shortage, that distinction is important.

And how much of the food is actually discarded?

A lot of restaurants give left over untouched food to soup kitchens, and a lot of grocery stores give foods nearing their expiration date to food banks. Many restaurants let their employees eat the extra food prepared. And that left on plates? well, in some areas it is still recycled to be used for pigs or animal foods.

When I was a child, we separated food into one bin, which was picked up 3 times a week for farmers, and into trash, which was picked up once a week.

Other ways to recycle food, of course, is a compost heap.

But the real problem causing the waste of good food isn’t even mentioned: the dirty little secret is that a lot of food in poor countries is eaten by insects and vermins.

In the late 1980s, it was estimated by the World Health Organization that one-quarter to one-third of the world’s food supply was lost due to spoilage before it reached the consumer. In tropical regions, losses were as high as 50% (FAO 1987, 1989). Now, more than twenty years later, sources are still reporting postharvest losses of up to 50% (Aworh 2008). Cutting losses by half would have a significant impact on the ability of nations to feed themselves while reducing the dependence on food imports

Yet there are solutions to improve food and grain storage even in the poorest countries. For example, in Africa, often the graneries were mud and wattle construction, either raised or built on a stone foundation, but which alas did not keep out vermin.

The solution? One example is written about in this article is about metal raised storage boxes for Africa.

I do agree however that Americans tend to throw out food, maybe because so many live alone and leftovers are thrown out rather than reeaten or recycled.  As for the “natural” diet: that too has a side effect. Many stores have to throw out spoiled fresh fruits and vegetable that are too deteriorated to sell, whereas the shelf life of canned and frozen foods is much longer and so much less is wasted.

Here in the Philippines, things are a bit different. We rarely throw out food unless it is very moldy or bad. We eat it, then the next meal it is reheated for the staff to eat as a side dish with their next meal, and if the staff doesn’t want it, it goes to the dogs (or cats, or koi/fish). Only a small amount of peelings or burnt rice or mouldy food ends up getting thrown into the trash. (Yes, we tried showing the staff how to discard it to a compost heap, but they never could do it properly, which is the Filipino way that the polite staff lets you know that they don’t want to do another job on top of their regular chores).

One big problem is bugs. We sell organic rice, and one problem is to remove the eggs that survive milling without adding pesticides.  We sieve the rice, which lets the bugs and some of the eggs and the broken rice fall to the ground, and then we blowtorch the rice lightly to kill what was missed.

Ironically, some of the best ways to stop food waste are anathema to the green yuppies.
For example, there are preservatives. Again, the green types don’t use these, and we don’t use it in our rice, but locally most of our commercially baked goods are full of preservatives and stored in plastic bags so manage to stay fresh despite the hot moist climate.

Finally, if left on the shelf too long, food gets stale. One of the problems a few years ago here was that the country had a typhoon that destroyed crops, so the gov’t authorized cheap rice to be bought, stored and sold at cut-rate prices to the poor.The politicians bought a lot more rice than was needed (and took their cut from the deal). The result was a lot of the rice went bad  (rancid from the fats in the bran etc), but hey, the politicians got rich from it.

So yes. Don’t waste food. Only cook as much as you can eat. Bring a doggy bag home from restaurants. And if you can, urge your local municipality to allow recycling restaurant/groceries and even local folks to recycle discarded food to others via food banks and soup kitchens, and to allow that which cannot be eaten to be recycled as animal food.

But please, stop the “ain’t it awful” guilt making reports. Not only do they turn off ordinary folks, they rarely include suggestions on solving the problem.


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