With hunger rife, food waste should never happen

Food waste should be a topic of conversation finding its way onto everyone’s dining room table tonight.

Hunger is an issue spanning every continent across the globe, yet a vast amount of food is thrown away each day, with a sizable portion of that being stuff no one has even nibbled on.

Organized by the Marquette Food Co-op, a panel of local professionals discussed the problem of wasted food Wednesday at the Ore Dock Brewing Company, following a screening of the documentary “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste.”

The panelists talked about efforts being made locally to improve the situation, but some of the national and global statistics related to lost food are staggering.

Nearly 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger, a 2016 National Geographic story reported, but about a third of the planet’s food goes to waste, often because of how it looks.

An “imperfect” carrot will have the same taste and crunch as any run-of-the-mill carrot you’ll find on the grocery store shelves, but many times what looks different won’t sell. Still, these “ugly” fruits and vegetables can help solve some of the hunger problems that our world faces, the National Geographic article stated.

Citing the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, author Elizabeth Royte wrote in the article that about 2.9 trillion pounds of food is squandered globally each year.

Imagine if we could divert those resources to the people who really need it, the millions of starving children and their famished families who can’t find a balanced meal to save their lives.

Meanwhile, producers and grocers reject the fruits and vegetables that might not appear the way consumers have become accustomed to seeing them, and leftover meals are scraped into the garbage cans and waste bins across the world and hauled to landfills.

Here at home, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says about 95 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities, and that in 2014, the U.S. disposed of more than 38 million tons of food waste.

Similar to recycling plastics or cardboard, for example, cutting back on the amount of food that’s thrown in the trash can lengthen the lives of our landfills, leaving room for things that can’t be reused or composted, unlike many of those table scraps.

There are several things we can do to cut down the amount of food that’s wasted. Sharing meals with others is one, as is storing any leftovers in the freezer for later consumption.

Being mindful of what you purchase, as well as what you already have, are simple tips to keep in mind when planning out your week’s meals.

There is a movement underway to curb some of the food waste that’s taking place. The documentary screening and panel discussion organized by the Marquette Food Co-op is an indication of that, and a good start toward educating the community on the issue, but more needs to be done.

Now we as a community need to take it to the next step. Everyone should be considering things we can do to make better use of the food we have, while also cutting back on what’s tossed in the trash.