What I saw was staggering...every year in America, filmmaker Jeremy Seifert claims, we throw away 96 billion pounds of food...as much food, he says, as we feed ourselves. That is the equivalent of $165 billion dollars wasted, says the National Resources Defense Council(NRDC).
And then, when you consider the poor who are food insecure, wasting food becomes that much worse. According to Feeding America, 50.1 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including 16.7 million children. Reducing our food waste by only 15% would feed more than 25 million people every year, claims the NRDC.
From an environmental standpoint, the NRDC states that going "from farm to fork" uses 10% of the total U.S. Energy budget, 50% of U.S. land, and 80% of freshwater consumed in the U.S.
Food waste becomes a big deal.
While Seifert's practices are a bit unorthodox, I was still moved by the vast quantities of thrown away food and the restrictions surrounding food donation.
I thought about the take-away message of Dive and what I could do in my own home, in my own kitchen.
Here's what I gleaned:
1. Inventory the fridge, freezer, cabinets and pantry. Dig into the corners and the back spaces. What has been put away and forgotten? Check expiration dates and use my judgment about whether it needs to be tossed.
2. Be mindful about what I buy and what I order at restaurants. Choose items that I really will want to finish up and not throw away.
3. Get creative...need to use up those canned beans? Summer is the perfect time for a grain and bean salads. Need to use up some frozen meat? Throw what I can on the grill...have friends over and have a "mustgo" party...everything must go. Who can be the most creative with what's in the cabinet today?
4. For food that has spoiled, compost what I can. Recycle the containers and make better choices.
5. Stay local. When I buy from the farm, I am working within a more reasonable shelf-life. Buy local, eat fresh...it's a win-win.
Now, of course, if you're into doomsday prepping or anticipating a zombie apocalypse, you may not be interested in emptying your food stores. My husband, who tends to be an over-buyer (as in stacks of canned sardines in the cabinet) likes to play the devil's advocate.
It doesn't have to be a zombie apocalypse, he says. What about a bank crisis? Or an energy crisis? With no access to cash? What if the markets close?
He has a point, I guess. Having lived in South Florida, I can vouch for the madness that results post-hurricane when you're an ill-prepared northerner with debit and credit cards that need electricity to function, limited cash, and a scant supply of non-perishable food.
I get it.
So I conceded the sardines in exchange for non-negotiable trips to the farm for fresh produce. We both win.
Regardless of our food storage practices, we can't deny that as a society, we waste a lot of food...in our restaurants, in our schools, in our markets, and in our homes. Being more thoughtful with our food consumption and disposal, as we do with other mindful practices, such as recycling and gas consumption, will have far reaching benefits, including the bottom line.
We don't have to dive, as Seifert does. Being aware and making the best choices we can will make a real difference, one meal at a time.
And those sardines...it's all you. Bon provecho!