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Food, Glorious Food, by Jordan Rubin

Jordan Rubin

Food, Glorious Food!

“Food, Glorious Food” is a wonderful song from the musical Oliver! in which the characters—young 19th century orphans from London—express their dreams of one day eating from an abundance of delicious foods. You see, all they got to eat each day was a bowl of disgusting gruel, so you can understand why they dreamed of eating yummy meals.

During Dickens’ time—and much of history—people have not lived in a world of abundance. They would never think of passing up or throwing away useable food, unlike many Americans who throw tons of edible food into the garbage each day. Even with a resurgence of sustainable ideals, we may not understand the connection that waste has on our overall quality of life. The simple truth is that our resources, including food, are limited, and we must make them last—but that takes intentionality.

Food Waste

We produce an exorbitant amount of food in the United States, but we also waste more than one-quarter of the food we produce. Food waste is consistently one of the largest categories of waste being dumped into landfills around the country. In fact, about 96 billion pounds of food a year goes to waste—from fields, commercial kitchens, manufacturing plants, markets, schools, and restaurants. Additionally, think about how many leftovers and rotting fruits and vegetables end up in the trash or the disposal. How many dollars do we literally put down the drain each week, each month, and each year?

This waste is not only irresponsible in terms of what that could mean for feeding the hungry (through donating the surplus food to food banks), but it also creates negative effects on the environment since we spend about $1 billion a year just to dispose of this excess food. Food waste also occurs from multiple sources, including consumer and industrial over-buying and agricultural supply vs. demand. Obviously, there is a certain amount of food waste that we can’t control, due to weather and crop deterioration. Most of us, however, do not consume all we purchase, thereby disposing of agricultural bounty, depriving others, and wasting our own hard-earned dollars.

Timothy Jones, an anthropologist at the UA Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology, has spent over a decade measuring food loss. He began his research by examining the practices on farms before going onto food production, retail, consumption, and waste disposal. Jones’ findings not only revealed that a significant amount of food fit for human consumption could be used to feed the hungry, but U.S. consumers and manufacturers could save tens of billions of dollars annually.

On average, U.S. households waste 14 percent of their food purchases, including unopened products still within their expiration date that could have gone to those in need. Jones estimates an average family of four tosses out $590 per year in meat, fruits, vegetables, and grain products. Nationwide, he says, household food waste alone adds up to $43 billion, making it a serious economic problem.

Many support Jones’ theory that cutting food waste reduces serious environmental problems. For instance, rotting food in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition, Jones estimates that reducing food waste by half could reduce adverse environmental impacts by 25 percent through reduced landfill use, soil depletion, and applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

So what can we do? There are several easy methods to utilize food better:

* Find out what common foods can be refrigerated or frozen so that they can be eaten at a later date.

* Plan meals with the “Use by” date in mind to reduce waste and save money, and plan meals around using leftover food.

* Donate leftover food to those in need via local food banks, religious groups, and homeless centers.

* Compost food waste; compost offers nutrient-rich fertilization for gardens and landscapes.

* Participate in a co-op (cooperative) buying program to support local farmers and aid in their quantity estimates for crop planning.

* Check your refrigerator’s temperature setting to make sure it is not too high; higher temps result in quick food decomposition.

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Common Makers Diet Jordan Rubin misspellings are Jordan Ruben, Jordan Reuben, Jordon Rubin, Jordon Ruben, or Jordon Reuben