Opinion

Let’s Stop Wasting Time on Wasting Food

Courtesy of Jeffrey ParkinsonDonating extra groceries to food pantries prevents waste and ensures the food goes to those who need it.

While studying for final exams in the Corboy Law Center at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus, I overheard a fellow student complaining that they weren’t going to eat their meal from Lu’s Deli because it was “trash” and they would rather have Chick-fil-A, but the establishment was closed for remodeling.

Of course, the student is entitled to their opinion on the quality and taste of their meal from Lu’s Deli. But to throw away what someone else would consider a consumable meal because it’s not exactly what you wanted seems negligent and self-indulgent.  

There are few sights in this world that frustrate and perplex me more than food waste — especially wasting perfectly consumable food — with tossed garbage bag upon tossed garbage bag.

I was raised in a household where I had to finish everything on my plate before leaving the dining room table. If I didn’t like something my parents prepared for dinner, I received the “too bad, so sad” story, and eventually I would give in and eat whatever stared back at me on my plate.

Residing in a developed world, we as an American society take too many things for granted. Food is one of them, and wasting any of it seems utterly contradictory to fighting the increasing rate of world hunger.

Having the ability to drive to the nearest grocery store to stock up when the fridge at home is low, or the privilege to choose which five-star restaurant you’ll be dining at this weekend seems trivial when there are 795 million malnourished and starving people in the world, according to the World Hunger Education Service.

Every year, consumers in industrialized and developed countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. In the United States, 40 percent of food is wasted, which equals more than 20 pounds of food per person per month.

In 1967, the United States introduced food banks in an attempt to reduce the amount of people suffering from starvation. Almost all food banks are free of charge, and they distribute goods such as produce, bakery products, frozen foods, boxed dry groceries, emergency boxes, canned goods and some non-pantry items.

Roughly 80 percent of the food banks across the United States are operated by a national network known as Feeding America.

Last month, Feeding America implemented a new algorithm that matches donors with receiving food banks. The algorithm was installed as an application titled Meal Connect. A restaurant can post an offer for food on the app, and then Meal Connect will automatically match that offer with the closest food pantry that is receiving and distributing food.

The application allows food bank recipients to obtain hotter, fresher meals, while also having the chance to have food come from restaurants that would otherwise be throwing it away. Meal Connect also alleviates the stress put on the food banks and their donors and suppliers to keep their pantries fully stocked for incoming recipients.

Meal Connect intercepts food otherwise headed straight for the dumpster, and it’s a plausible response to reducing the amount of wasted food. The app serves as a role model for other food banks and hunger-reducing organizations to follow, but there are other solutions that can be executed, too, especially by our government.

In December 2015, Congress passed a law for fiscal year 2016 that increases tax deductions for food donations and extends them to various businesses. This portion of legislation was highly received, as it provides tax incentives for food donations to food banks and similar organizations.

On Feb. 7, Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) proposed an amendment request to Congress for the Child Nutrition Act of 1966. The amendment asks for clarification and expansion of food donation under the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. It’s thought that the Good Samaritan act has deterred many potential donors, inciting fear of getting sued if someone who consumed their donated food became sick.

With the summer months quickly approaching and less time being dedicated to schoolwork, now is the time to start reconsidering how you or others you may know are contributing to food waste.

Next time you go grocery shopping, truly consider if what you’re buying will be eaten. Do you have a tendency to buy something only to throw it away a week later? Often, wasting food is a subconscious act. Become aware of how much food you throw away, begin to plan meals and create shopping lists for things you only need to restock on.

Volunteer at a local food bank, such as the Greater Food Chicago Depository and The Lakeview Pantry, that have several locations throughout the City of Chicago. You can volunteer with friends to make the experience even more fun.

More importantly, donate. Donate not only your time to volunteering and learning about how to reduce food waste, but also donate actual food. Food banks are almost always accepting donations, such as unopened and unexpired food items, personal hygiene supplies and clothing.

This piece was published in the May 10 print edition of The PHOENIX.