Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Some Reflections on Food Waste

Organic celery, intended to be cut up and snacked on with peanut butter...spoiled. Frozen string beans from Trader Joe's...only half a bag consumed, the rest freezer-burned from Thanksgiving. Tomato sauce for my 'meatball' subs...expired. Food waste. I am guilty of committing it, even though I'm fairly conscious of it, and feel guilt-ridden whenever it happens.

This fall, I volunteered for the day for a local food hunger relief organization, the Center for Food Action. My job: sorting through bags of food donations, examining the expiration date, and tossing the expired food. That day, 20 percent of the food went in the garbage. That's one out of five items! The volunteer coordinator said this was typical. "People give with their hearts, not with their heads," he said. A lot of the food items thrown away were made of meat and animal by-products, even more unnerving...all those animals suffered a horrible life and death, for nothing.

After that day, I've been more conscious than ever to eat what I have. For the most part, except for the crimes mentioned in the first paragraph, I've been eating what I have in my cupboards and refrigerator, then restocking. We shop out of habit. We shop out of boredom. We shop because we want something new. But waste is disrespectful to ourselves, to those who have so little while we have so much, and to the environment.

Before the recent snowfall, suburban New Jersey residents were at the supermarket in droves stocking up...as if most of us didn't live within a 10 minute drive of a store. Consider what you have in your pantry and refrigerator. Could you too use what you have before shopping for something new?

Times are hard. Give nourishing vegan food to your local food pantries.
Find a local food bank through Feeding America.

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