What Happened to Mom's Advice?

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 6:35 PM

    Many Americans remember their mothers advice "finish the food on your plate" but few are listening. According to Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), we are throwing away 40% of the food we buy. There are many contributing factors to why we waste so much. Bloom suggests that it has to do with the low cost of food in the United States. Food accounts for 6.9% of the average household income in America; one of the lowest averages worldwide. According to Bloom “That cheapness has a real impact—we don’t tend to value that which is inexpensive. And by most any definition, something that’s 7 percent of our budget is cheap. And each individual item is only a fraction of that percentage, providing little economic incentive not to waste.”




    We waste food in two ways. The first and biggest culprit to food waste does not occur on the plate but in the refrigerator. Due to the prevalence of major grocery chains selling food laced with preservatives, Americans have lost touch with the way most of the world still shops. While a family may go shopping on a daily basis in India to buy fresh food, Americans have chosen convenience over freshness. An unintended consequence is waste. As most Americans buy food less often we tend to stockpile for weeks to come and much of the food spoils. The other culprit is waste on the plate, our eyes are simply too big for our stomachs.



    While the fact that we are wasting so much food while others are starving is alone a strong motivation to change our eating habits, the problem is even bigger than that. To grasp the bigger picture think of how many resources are used from food production to delivery. Between fertilizers, food processing, packing and transportation, there is a lot more being wasted than just the food. A recent study at the University of Texas announced that American food waste equals the energy equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil per year.

    Perhaps the worst environmental consequence of our food waste is usually not considered. When our food ends up in a landfill it does not biodegrade. Instead, due to lack of oxygen in landfills, the food produces methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide.



    You may be asking, so what can I do about this? Well, the answer is simple. Waste less food! Make smaller and more frequent trips to the grocery store and make sure you don't cook more than you'll eat. That being said, there is a way to deal with left-overs that prevents them from contributing to pollution. You can make a compost pile for your food to naturally biodegrade. Best of all the compost will provide you with great fertilizer! For instructions on making your own compost pile please use the following links:
http://www.composting101.com/
http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6957
http://eartheasy.com/grow_compost.html

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Article sources:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talk-waste-land
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/18/weekinreview/18martin.html?pagewanted=all
http://www.wastedfood.com/
http://www.grist.org/sustainable-food/2011-03-20-ask-umbra-on-food-waste-and-what-to-do-about-it
Image sources:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=earth-talk-waste-land
http://www.endhunger.org/food_waste.htm
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg051839021184.html



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