Food – How Much Do We Waste?

In this time of a global food crisis, it is appropriate for concerned citizens of the world to examine their food habits. Recently in the UK, an extensive study was done to determine how much food is actually wasted. Visit the website:


The foods most likely to be thrown away are potatoes (whole or skins) apples, salad foods and bread crusts. The study showed that one-quarter of all the foods discarded were thrown away whole, such as whole chickens, or unopened packs of yogurt past their eat-by date. Another example of wasting food that happens every day is breakfast cereal left in the bowl.

That we in the developed countries accept this as normal says a lot about our culture, which is a culture of excess. We have come to strongly believe in a sense of entitlement regarding food (and other things). Many of us are used to food prices being quite low, relative to the actual costs of producing the food (the meat and dairy industries in particular receive huge government subsidies that ultimately come from taxes) and so if we decide to throw something away, it didn’t seem to cost that much anyway.

We take for granted our well-stocked supermarkets brimming over with a dizzying variety of foods, many of them transported from far away. We seldom think about the hungry citizens of those far away countries who cannot afford to buy the food they are employed to grow because the well-fed will pay more. Literally, the excess food we throw away is directly related to others not having enough to eat.

There are now people who will eat whatever they can put together, such as the poor in Haiti who cannot afford rice which costs six times what it did half a year ago. Many rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau mixed with salt and vegetable shortening. The cookie makers say that even dirt to make 100 cookies costs $5.

The more I read about our global food crisis, the more I see how perpetuating our North American food habit is part of the problem. Some say that as oil becomes increasingly more expensive, that our whole method of industrial agriculture will necessarily end…that there will not be enough fossil fuels to maintain these agricultural practices, which require fuel for tractors, for fertilizers, and for transportation.

Necessity will force us to change our throwaway habits when food becomes scarce and vastly more expensive. And as we learn to change our wasteful ways and move into what educator Richard Heinberg calls "the era of frugality”, we also become a more compassionate species.

Tsiporah is a Gabriolan of 35 years and keen observer of our times and our evolutionary potential as compassionate human beings. She is now focusing on food.