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Food Waste Serious Issue in Developed Countries

Updated on August 13, 2010

Over the past decade the media has done an outstanding job of covering the problems of world hunger and the dire situation in which some undeveloped countries are when it comes to providing their families with servings of food every night. What most people living in the wealthier and more developed countries are hardly aware of is the fact that poverty, homelessness and lack of food are also part of their country, even their own communities. Most of us don’t realize how many people in our own cities have to suffer every night so their families don’t have to go to bed with an empty stomach. According to the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty there are 3 million homeless people, including 1.3 million children, currently living in the United States.

This grave issue came to me while working at a Toronto supermarket last year. While working mostly night shifts at the deli and hot food departments I could see the immense amount of food that was being thrown out every night. I’m not talking about sold out product that, understandably so, have to be thrown out. I’m talking about bags full of whole chickens and containers full of pasta, rice, potatoes, chicken fingers and chicken wings that just 10 minutes before were being sold to customers. All of the thing I threw out were definitely edible and surely would have made a nice lunch the day after. The supermarket of course did nothing about this problem. I mean, why should they right? These are all products that they can’t legally sell the day after anyway. But the problem is that they are too selfish to give it to anyone else, including their own employees who they prohibit from taking anything home without paying for it.

When I was working there I did see a speck of light on this issue though. When customers saw the amount of food that I was throwing out they would immediately become appalled by what I was doing and commented on how wrong this was. This tells me that people don’t know that this is happening but as soon as they realize what is going on they want to do something about it. There is simply not enough being said about what goes on behind closed doors in most food establishments like restaurants, cafeterias and supermarkets all around the world. In these establishments it seems like there is a lack of conscience when dealing with food waste. At the end of the night when the establishment has closed all the food that was not sold that day is thrown out like it was any other garbage, right down the chutes. In a recent study it was found that Americans discard more than 96 billion pounds of edible food. If at least 5% of that was recovered, it could provide the equivalent of a day's food for four million hungry people. This is why we have to become more aware of this issue.

Luckily there are some organizations, like City Harvest in New York and second Harvest in Toronto, that are doing something to minimize this problem. These food rescue organizations pick up and deliver the foods to city shelters, participating churches and other government institutions. What I am surprised about is that there aren’t more associations like these that are trying to help out. And even more surprised that there aren’t enough businesses participating with this service; After all there are advantages to doing this. Businesses that participate with these organizations receive tax benefits and I can’t see why they can’t use this as advertisement much like they use their “green” products as advertisement.

The waste of edible food doesn’t just stop at the grocery store though. This problem continues right past our kitchen and into our dinner tables. In Toronto, each household produces about 275 kilograms of food waste each year. Everyone adds a little bit to these terrible statistics so we have to become self-conscious and realize that we can do something about this issue. We have to take responsibility of our own actions and prevent or at least reduce the amount of food wasted within our own households. This is a problem that can be solved and if enough coverage is given to this issue it can become very easy to reduce the amount of food that is being wasted in the world. Remember, there are a lot of people that could be eating the food you are throwing away now.

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