Dear Future President,
I’m writing in regards to a pressing, ever growing issue in today’s society; food waste. You’re probably at least some what informed of this issue, so I’m not here to inform, rather I’d like to urge you to do more as the current measures being taken towards reducing and, hopefully, resolving food waste aren’t nearly large enough.
As a kid, I never really understood why I was always told to be grateful for having food on the table, I always saw it as an expectation rather than a privilege. Every year the average family of four wastes $1,600 on food that’s just going to be put in the trash, whether it be forgotten, disliked, or expired. Food is taken for granted, but do we really have that right? 42.2 million households in the United States alone live with food insecurity, which means nearly 1 in 7 people run the risk of going hungry. With so many people unable to provide such a simple necessity, does our excessive waste really seem acceptable? Food waste isn’t treated as a major issue most are informed of, for example, the wage gap or the death penalty, yet it’s a large pressing issue we face. And it’s not only the hungry who we have to be worried about.
Picture you’re in a place, it’s filled with slim boxes, stuffed bags, shiny sealed packages, and bright perfectly shaped fruit- where am I? Landfill or supermarket? There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference when it comes to food waste. Landfills contain everything from fresh produce to old moldy cheese, from cans of soup to four month old left overs, but surprisingly 31% the food thrown out is perfectly edible. This not only means that Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $220 billion each year in wasted resources and food, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest occupant. The rot makes up 25% of America’s methane emissions and 8% of the world's. Americans still aren’t properly educated on the subject of food waste and it shows. In a recent survey conducted by Ohio State University, 500 people representing different social classes, age and ethnic groups were asked if they were aware of the food waste problem. Shockingly only a little over half the respondents replied yes. 80% of those aware said they felt guilty when throwing food out but almost half said they just don’t have time to worry. If this is just a small representation, then just imagine what the country thinks as a whole.
Part of this can be accounted for by sheer misinformation of expiration labeling. Because labels aren’t standardized there’s a difference between sell by, best if used by, and use by dates, just to name a few, which causes confusion within the population and accounts for more than 90% of prematurely tossed food. Even with documentaries and campaigns that have been created in order to combat the unawareness and with an act going through Congress right now to require standardized labeling, people still don’t know about this problem. They don’t realize that they’re misinterpreting and they don’t know that they have the ability to clarify the misleading information. They don’t think they’re doing anything wrong simply because we, as a country, don’t make a big deal out of it.
Two apples sit side by side: one the traditional apple shape, bright red, a perfect stem with a leaf and shiny, the other a misshapen lump with indents everywhere, patchy red, and dull. Which is more likely to be bought? “Camera Cuisine”, as called by Times journalist Pete Wells, is the norm in today’s society; it’s become part of our culture. We desire picture uniform shapes, shiny exteriors, bright colors- overall perfection. But perfect produce doesn’t come without a price. Oxidation, bruising, discoloration and deformity are common and completely normal but that’s not what we want, even though it’s what we need to accept. Every time a shipment is declined it isn’t the fault of the big businesses, which is where most people like to point the blame, it’s the fault of society because of what we desire. People claim they don’t care about the aesthetic value and pride themselves in wasting less than others, but if that’s the case, then why is this such a problem?
Documentaries, websites, organizations, programs, social media, acts, bills and media attention- all of this exists and yet the problem with food waste just seems to grow. Yes there are movements aimed at this reduction, but are they really enough? We just keep wasting, causing larger and larger problems. What we need is full government attention, because what’s being done isn’t happening at the rate it needs to be. People have to be informed, they need to know how serious and large scale this issue is. Food waste isn’t small. It not only takes over our lives, it takes over our planet. Something needs to change, something great must be done. We can’t keep letting an issue like this be ignored or passed off for others to deal with. Educate, reduce, prevent. Mr./Mrs. President, make the norm unacceptable.