Jess’ Post: All About Food Waste

Howdy folks!

303003_2415141148664_104372587_n For the last few days I’ve been surveying friends, classmates, family, and acquaintances in my life to find out what the people around me know and believe in- in terms of food waste. I created 10 questions that ~25 people graciously answered. (Here’s a big shout out to everyone who took the time to respond to my questions! Thank you!)

Because of the size of the survey population and the bubble of people around me at school and on the Seacoast, I am aware that many of the answers are somewhat biased and extremely conscious in terms of how we relate to food waste. That being said, someday when I have more time and a broader pool of people to survey, I would love to do this experiment again to try to eliminate/reduce said biases!

Over the next few weeks I hope to pass on some of the answers I received to share ideas, advice, thoughts, and perspectives other than mine! It’s been really insightful, inspiring, and eye opening to hear what the people around me understand or don’t understand, and realized while thinking through my questions.

My first question was “what comes to mind when you think of the term food waste?” Here are some of the answers I received:

  • “I think of anything relating to food that isn’t going towards human consumption. This doesn’t always mean that these things can’t be used for other things, and this can be a grey area depending on food preferences and personal creativity. Coffee grounds, coffee filters, and pumpkin seeds could all be examples of food waste (in the way that I see it). Coffee grounds can be repurposed as an exfoliant/abrasive for cleaning, pumpkin seeds from a pie pumpkin could be roasted as a snack (YUM), and a coffee filter could be composted, or I’m sure some creative Pintrest-er has a better use”

  • “In general I think of restaurants throwing away leftovers and food that in the eye of the restaurant may be “old”… I think the marketing of food creates food waste”

  • “Food products that end up in the trash vs. consumed”

  • “Food waste means economic waste. And I don’t just mean the money I lost at the grocery store. It also means the loss of all the energy that went into the production of the uneaten food. Reducing food waste, to me, is tied directly to reducing my carbon footprint”

  • “I think how in Hungary [as a part of my study abroad program] we are learning about American stereotypes and one of the first on the list is: “Americans eat a lot and also waste a lot”

  • “The FIRST thing that comes to my mind is the prepared food people leave on their plates after a meal, either eating out or at home.  Second is what spoils in someone’s home fridge.  Third, the scraps from preparing food (peelings, broccoli stems, etc.).  Fourth, all the food that’s left in the field in agriculture, apples having fallen, imperfectly shaped food, etc.  Fifth, the food supermarkets throw out because of unregulated/undefined expiration dates”

  • “I think of HoCo [a UNH dining hall], and how lavishly people will garnish their plates only to realize they want 1/3 of it and dump the rest away. I think how it’s good there is a compost program, but if people took just what they’d eat, then the demand would not be so high for supplying over the quantity that is needed”

  • “I think of fresh surplus food (produce, meat, fish, bread) in restaurant kitchens and grocery stores being tossed in the garbage and I think of slightly blemished and slightly “dated” food being thrown away because of real or perceived consumer biases”

My second question was “do you think the U.S. and the rest of the world has a food waste problem?”

  • “Yes. I think it comes from a more esoteric position, but basically, we consume more than our fair share of everything. Why not food. But as a matter of practicality, we are all subject to advertising and marketing. Our ability to eat food is finite (i.e., our stomachs are only so big, etc.), but our ability to buy food is almost infinite. So we are seduced into buying things we don’t need to sustain our bodies day to day”

  • “Yes, I do think there is a food waste problem. The demand/argument for industrial agriculture is that we need to “feed the world” yet supposedly there is already enough to feed the world and it is more a matter of distribution”

  • “YES. People take for granted the availability of food and take too much, or they don’t know how to use foods efficiently and/or forget about them in the fridge rather than getting creative and finding a use for them.  Also, people for some reason think they need “perfect food.” SO much food goes to waste just because it was the perfect shape, people talk about discrimination against other humans based on looks, let’s also talk about the discrimination against lumpy bumpy fruits and veg, ugly food needs love too”

  • “I absolutely think the U.S. has a food waste problem. While many people in the U.S. are trying to survive in food deserts, more fortunate people won’t purchase a lumpy tomato. As a result, many nutritious food items (e.g., fruits, vegetables) are discarded instead of getting eaten. I think this particular problem stems from America’s (wrongly) perceived vision for itself: that we as a nation are better than everyone else, and so can be bothered to “suffer” with unattractive food. Which is ridiculous. I’m not sure when these trends and expectations of “perfect” food started, but I’m sure the roots were set in around the same time the American expectation of a perfect human body set in”

  • “Yes, but I am encouraged by the growing “gleaning” movement I’ve observed over the last 15 years”

  • “I do think that the world as a whole has a food waste problem, and it’s especially bad in the US. Some countries are starting to try to curb the problem (France recently passed laws that bar old/damaged food from being thrown out, I think?) while others have not. I believe that it’s a cultural/social thing, and laws/gov’t support follows that. While this topic seems to be on the radar of most people in the US, not everyone is on board with the idea and/or trying to reduce their waste”

  • “The U.S. especially…Everyone throws out perfectly good food, from the parent who says “don’t eat that apple that has a worm in the side!!!” to grocery stores that will dump perfectly good baked goods or vegetables and restaurants that just throw out any extras that they have” I’m sure other countries are probably as bad, and I think a large culprit would be the lack of food education that people have”

I don’t know about you, but I thought these responses were amazing! So many important points were brought up. If anyone is interested in seeing all of the answers I’ve received, let me know in the blog comment box. I have 12 pages worth of responses so far, and more on the way! Next  week I’ll share questions 3 and 4 along with more quotes from my survey. For this weeks food waste challenge, I challenge you think about these two questions yourself! Share your thoughts in the space below if you’d like!

All the best-

Jess
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