My kids love fruit. Cantaloupe, peaches, grapes, apples, bananas, honey dew, blueberries, raspberries – you name it they love it. I love that my kids have a large variety of healthy foods that they will excitedly eat. What I don’t love is when we go to the grocery store and my kid cheerfully asks to get strawberries and I have to tell her no – they are too expensive this week. Organic? Hahaha. Not happening.
We just left the grocery store with two bags of grapes that were on sale – total cost: $10. I can guarantee those bags will be gone by tomorrow. You know what else I can guarantee will happen tomorrow? That same store will have thrown away dozens of those same bags of grapes.
We recently had activist Rob Greenfield stay with us on his Food For All Tour. Even though I have followed him for awhile it was still mind blowing to see it all go down in real life, in our small town. And by “it all go down” I mean it all goes down to the landfill. The amount of food we throw away is INSANE. Dumpsters full of food. All that fruit I mentioned before? The dumpsters were stacked with cantaloupes, berries, bags of grapes- more food than we could fit in our minivan. And you know what? We took as much of it as we could fit home. We washed it, then we filled our fridge and freezer like it has never been filled before. We gave bags of food to several friends. We left food at a gas station and passed some onto homeless people we saw around town. My family of five ate better and healthier than we ever have. And for the first time ever our kitchen saw organic food.
But we STILL wound up throwing much of it back in the dumpster because there was simply too much food to keep up with. Its’s worth noting that while there was no shortage of healthy food – there was just as much processed and packaged junk food in the dumpsters. This is an especially painful irony when you consider over 48 million Americans live in food insecure households and 21,000 people die every day across the globe from hunger. Every. Single. Day. A substantial portion of which are children. It’s depressing enough without even touching on the environmental implications that result from the production and transportation of this food that is going directly to our landfills.
A few months back I asked an employee at a popular grocery store if we could buy some of the produce he was pulling off the shelves. He said he would have to ask a manager. The manager then told me he had to throw it away so they don’t get sued like he claimed they had in the past. Turns out there is not one case of a grocery store being sued for donating food – ever. Outside their dumpster was swarmed with the largest vultures I have ever seen. When I wrote to the stores headquarters they assured me they donate the food. Yet time and time again I have found fully packaged ripe food in their dumpster. I have found this to be true of multiple food establishments in town that have donation plans in place. Some stores donate some of their food to pig farmers – which is a start – but many of those pigs wind up right back in the dumpster in the form of bacon and hot dogs.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love shopping in a beautiful, air-conditioned grocery store that is bursting at the seems with shiny produce. But this model is literally killing us. We live in a society where families are living off of processed sugars and carbohydrates because we can’t afford produce – gifting ourselves with diabetes and a laundry list of other health conditions. Meanwhile, stores are throwing away about 40% of the food we produce. And what happens when people try to donate and/or live off of the food that isn’t pretty enough for the grocery store? The stores lock up their dumpsters. We went to a dumpster this week to find boxes on boxes on boxes of ripe organic produce- enough to feed our whole neighborhood. It appeared an employee had poured bleach over the food to ensure that no one could eat it.
This has to change. We have to change. We’re not talking about vacations here – we’re talking food – an undeniable necessity to survive. The Good Samaritan Food Act was passed and not only protects stores from being sued if they donate food in good faith, but it incentives them. Yet here we are in 2016 still throwing away $165 billion of food every year.