Who among us has not had eyes bigger than our stomachs, ordering more food than we can eat or in the age of super-sizing, getting more than we wanted?
How many of us have left food on our plates or bought vegetables that didn’t get used and ended up in the trash or the recycle bin?
In a rich country where obesity rates are rising, how much food do we actually waste?
In a recent Conference Board of Canada report, the estimate of the value of food wasted in Canada each year is $28 billion.
In many cases, it is because consumers assume the “best before date” is a safety warning rather than a nutritional warning.
“The top reason for consumer food waste, not eating food before the ‘best before’ or ‘use by’ dates, could be addressed by helping consumers understand that ‘best before’ dates do not indicate the safety of the product but refer primarily to how long a food product is able to retain its freshness, taste or nutritional value,” said the report.
“It is clear that food waste is a worsening problem that is not being adequately addressed.”
But in fact, there is much food waste not connected to ‘best before’ dates.
In a land of plenty and surplus food production, it is an issue easily swept under the kitchen table.
In a rich country where obesity more often is a health problem than lack of food and yet hundreds of thousands are designated as under-fed, waste of food is an obscenity.
In many major Canadian cities, volunteers organize themselves to take hundreds of tonnes of waste food from restaurants and farmers’ markets to deliver to food banks and the hungry.
But Canada, sad as the story is, cannot really be considered a microcosm of the world. Outside our borders, where hunger and starvation really are much more of a reality, the situation is much worse.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recently estimated food wastage around the world at 1.3 billion tonnes.
It estimated that the cost is $750 billion in the food system and the wasted food creates 3.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year in their production, transportation and often decomposition.
The numbers are staggering and these are just not people in rich western countries with eyes bigger than their stomachs sending uneaten food back to the kitchen.
In many developing countries, it is harvest that blows off the back of unenclosed trucks as they drive from farm to delivery point.
In Kenya a few years ago, farmer black humour had it that the best crops grow in the ditches.
It is black humour indeed.
The seed development and biotechnology industries always race to find new seeds, new GM products, new processes that will increase production and feed a world of nine billion people. Science is the answer for feeding the world.
But really, if the world spent as much time and money figuring out how to make use of and preserve the protein humans create now instead of how to create more protein through super-plants, wouldn’t that be a better use of available resources?
I’m just asking.