March 2, 2017
Giving a New Thought On Food Waste Management
“There is no such thing as ‘away’, when we throw something away it must go somewhere”.
- Annie Leonard
In elementary schools alone, roughly one billion unopened and undesired food items are thrown out each year. This heap of one billion items could include perfectly healthy yogurt, or fruit that has not even been given the chance to bruise. The fact is, food waste in America alone has become out of control, and it is not just schooling systems to blame. When there are 805 million people going to bed hungry each night, throwing away perfectly good food should not even be an option. Instead of thinking straight to the trash can, businesses, schools, and restaurants should weigh the valuable alternatives, whether it be through donation, left-over projects, or simply more range of availability for the needy.
Think of a landfill: piles beyond piles of smelly garbage eating away at this green earth. Out of all the objects that make up these repulsive mounds of trash, food waste is the most abundant. It seems to be commonly mistaken that placing food in the trash makes it disappear forever, when really we are simply feeding the overfull landfills. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste is responsible for 3.3 billion tons of methane annually by rotting away in landfills. Methane, in retrospect to global warming and greenhouse gases, is the most influential component in climate change by blocking the sun’s heat from escaping the atmosphere. With the fear of global warming creeping into the minds of all Americans, it is completely unacceptable that this much green gas is still produced from simply a lack of food waste management.
To think of it literally, donating is the simple act of taking one’s excess belongings and placing them in the hands of those that could make positivity out of it. Donating food can be this simple as well. The United States Department of Agriculture claims that “donations of non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food from homes and businesses help stock the shelves at food banks, soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters”. In fact, in 2015 alone, food banks used approximately 2.8 billion pounds of produce to feed the needy. Considering this, a few businesses have successfully begun the act of donating their excess food to such organizations. For instance, Jody Shee records in her article Waste Not Want Not that several food chains in the United States (including Pizza Hut and KFC) hold excess food in a freezer, and then “once a week, a charity organization picks up the food containers for repurposing and reheating” (Shee, 2016). Along with this, Shee also states that grocery stores around the country, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Sam’s Club, have begun to join in on the donation process as well, and now 40% of wasted food in their stores are donated or recycled. There are so many charity organizations looking for opportunities such as this to partake in; it does not make sense for restaurants to oppose participating in food donation.
However, if donation is not an option, small businesses are getting clever by giving leftovers a second chance. Chef Michael Francis from Heartbeat Cafe in San Jose, California speaks about his unique cafe in the article Giving New Life to Leftovers. Here, these people do not believe in wasting good food. In fact, leftover food is better food! Rather than throwing out the extra food not eaten at the end of the day, workers save it all and transform the scraps into entirely new dishes for the following day. For example, one left-over creation that sparked the cafe’s popularity was the chicken stir fry made simply from the chicken not sold at dinner the night before, or the delicious carnitas made fresh from the excess roast beef. Francis tells readers that “We do a lot of off-site catering and whenever we have an overage, we put it to good use in the cafe”. He claims that it is all about creativity, and the customers love it because there is something new each day. Just as the majority of American families splurge over leftovers in the fridge, businesses should do the same. This one act of creativity can cut down a significant amount of food waste, and even earned an income doing so.
Related to this, Rooster Soup Co., recently founded by Steven Cook, is a restaurant in the heart of Philadelphia that originated from a surplus amount of chicken carcasses. The profits that roll in through this restuarant are given to the Broad Street Ministry’s Hospitality Collaborative, where the money is then used to provide services and meals to the city. Bret Thorn, author of Turning Food Waste into Good for the Community, states that “Rooster Soup Co. is a way of giving back”.
These small efforts have created a great start to help the economy, as well as the hungry. Because of such efforts, federal laws such as the Internal Revenue Code (allows tax deductions to businesses that donate wholesome food to nonprofit organizations) and the U.S. Federal Food Donation Act (pushes agencies to donate excess wholesome food to eligible nonprofit organizations to feed the homeless in the United States) have been put into action. We live in a world where there is too much food being made, to the fact that it is killing our ozone layers, yet also so many hungry people that can’t find food to put on their plates. Taking the ethical, and intelligent route, businesses, agencies, and all stores food related should weigh their options. There are so many more opportunities than the over-filled garbage can.
“Food Waste Worsens Greenhouse Gas Emissions: FAO.” Climate Central. N.p., 22 Sept. 2013. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.
FoodService. “Giving New Life to Leftovers.” Giving New Life to Leftovers 11.2 (2016): 10. Kutztown University Roherbach Library. Web.
“Hunger In America 2014.” Feeding America. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2017
Welch, Ashley. “School Lunch Fruits and Veggies Often Tossed in Trash, Study Finds.” CBS News. CBS Interactive, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.