Some may call it prying, I call it concern. I have never been the person who avoids the uncomfortable questions, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, well that depends on who you ask.
Nevertheless, when I was scanning the contents of my refrigerator I came across the leftover butternut squash stew I made a few days prior. Now you know, stews and soups love to sit for days. In the world of banking, time is money, but to a foodie time is literally flavor. Unfortunately this same law does not apply to all food groups.
Cucumbers become rubbery, salad gets slimy, milk turns sour, and the list goes on. It may not seem like a big deal to throw out half a loaf of bread, but think about that on a larger scale. If you think you’re the only one throwing out a slightly bruised tomato, think again. Nowadays, we’re programmed to want the shiniest apple, the juiciest chicken, down to the most eye-appealing label on a jar of spaghetti sauce.
The effects of our pick and choose society, our demand for artificial quality, and a rise in rapid production, has resulted in a lot of waste—and I mean a lot. Just in the year of 2010, The U.S. threw out an estimated 133 billion pounds of food.
I’m not here to point fingers at one individual. I’m not even here to point fingers at people themselves, but the mindless behaviors towards consumption which institutions have embedded in our brains, and the brains of ancestors, year after year.
First, the bad. When I confronted the grocer industries with the question of food waste, the response was at times, curt. Even nullifying the question. When I asked one company about disposal of moldy fruit, the person snickered and replied, “we don’t have moldy produce in the store, that would be gross” making my argument and myself, for that matter, seem petty.
Another business told me that they simply “get rid of those items” that are unsafe for consumption, and to “trash that food.” When I asked what that process entails, the employee paused and then said that’s “information we don’t really share with customers.” The conversation quickly ended after that.
Now for some good news. There are companies who are at least trying to make food waste affect the environment in less harmful ways. The majority of corporations I spoke to said their branches “either compost” or “have farmers that come and take it.” Food that is “not sellable to [the company] but still edible” is donated to local shelters. And when that’s not enough, the remaining food goes “back to [their] warehouse to companies that work with other food banks and nonprofits.”
Needless to say, this experience left me a little disheartened, but the message I want to walk away with is from one company who told me with sincerity, “we take it very seriously.” What gives me hope is not the hope of myself, alone, but the same hope of millions behind an industry.