HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

wasting food

there is nothing that drives me more insane than this. i realize that you can't always try to change people's habits and one should judge oneself and not others...but it still scrapes at me.

i cannot help but see mental images of starving children as plates of uneaten food are fork-shoveled into the trash.

i think this condition i have may have arose from working as a waiter/prep cook/dishwasher at a small restaurant and growing up at the table with a grandfather who lived through the depression and his stories of onion sandwiches.

i cant even begin to imagine how much is wasted the world round each day.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Hum...it seems clear to me that many restaurants serve portions that are much larger than what a typical person eats at a sitting. If you work at a restaurant, perhaps the place to start working for change is by encouraging smaller portions or encouraging more people to take leftovers home.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Darren72

      Exactly. You hit the nail on the head. Reduce portion size. I'm not going to be guilted into eating unhealthily.

    2. The amount is rather large. But what are you going to do? In China these days it's considered a sign of wealth to have more food than you can eat. Taking left over home is frowned upon. So with the economic growth comes more and more food waste.

      1. I remember when my mother used to tell me to finish my plate because little kids were starving in Africa. My answer to that was : " So then it's a lot better if I don't eat EVERYTHING, right? They'll have the leftovers!"

        The problem is that we have food here and they don't there. Throwing away or not throwing away food unfortunately won't change anything. Even reducing portions (although I totally agree with that - I hate throwing food myself, so I cook less food and, thus, throw less of it) wont make Africa eat more.

        In Montreal, there is an organism called "Moisson Montreal", which takes extra food from restaurants and grocery stores, food that is still good but not fresh or good looking enough to be sold, and distributes it to smaller organisms and feed the local homeless or poor people. I think it's a good start...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Frenchie

          Second Harvest is a name that seems to be synonomous with a number of very similar organizations through out Canada (Toronto origins) and the US. It's an interesting concept and seems to be working fairly well... but recently I've been hearing arguments regarding how it is helpful but rather deragatory to the community it's giving handouts to.

          Some of the food does come from big organizations who pat themselves on the back for doing good when really they're giving out leftovers. On top of that their yearly fundraiser is a high profile chef event where people pay over $200 a ticket (about $100 tax deductable) to eat delicacies. I realize they reduce waste and that sometimes you need any means necessary to gain awareness within the community.... but I'm pretty sure you could ask everyone at that event if they knew what it was supporting and only a small portion of those attending would know.

          Sorry a tangent, and really I'm two minds about this whole organization.... can't really decide if it's working for the greater good.

        2. "... but recently I've been hearing arguments regarding how it is helpful but rather deragatory to the community it's giving handouts to."

          That seems to be the kind of comment that an over-sensitive person who had never been hungry would make (I am not saying that about you, pinstripe, but to whomever is espousing that opinion). I rather doubt that an actual hungry person is concerned that someone is behaving derogatorily towards them. I would guess that food in their belly is a more immeadiate concern.

          5 Replies
          1. re: kim shook

            Cant help but agree with you...whatever the intention is behind the money and/or the food given, the person who receives it is just happy to EAT. And a lot less food is wasted that way...it's used for good.

            1. re: Frenchie

              i don't mean to say that i think this is a bad organization, they've found an interesting flaw in the capitalistic environment and have made use of it to do good. but by greater good i'm thinking that there should be a bigger push to create further awareness among the people who attend their high profile events because of the opportunities that could arise. hunger is not just about hunger, there's the availability of work, home and medical issues that come with it.

              i think it just bothers me because the food bank in toronto has reached all time lows in donations to the point of nearly shutting down and it may very well be because their events are less glamourous.

              1. re: pinstripeprincess

                Or people don't have extra to give...

                SHFB has seen a significant drop in donations, both physical and monitary, the last three years running. Perversely, they have not seen a similar drop in the acceptance of what foods they are able to procure.

                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                  Yes, food banks all over are seeing a significant jump in the number of people needing their services. And no, the donations have not kept up with the need. In my locale, providers are sharing the surprising news that the largest growth in need has not been in the city like everyone expects but out in the suburbs, including some where all the residents are typecast as "well off." The city's need hasn't eased one iota either. The need is real, and it is growing.

                  It's perfectly appropriate to be concerned if the local foodbank seems to be falling behind. It does not make sense to blame SHFB for the gap.

                  Every aid organization in the universe gets told that the area in which it has chosen to focus its effort is too limited and it's unworthy because it isn't doing more to address every single facet of the causes & symptons of the problem at hand. Citing that as a reason not to support the charitable effort shows the gravest risk of idealism without action. The sooner we let go of that, the better. The organizations that do work are the ones that choose a focused, practicable answer to the question "what can I do here?" It is both necessary and inevitable that the choice involves deciding not to do certain things.

                  If human nature were drawn to self-sacrifice purely for the betterment of others in need, the charitable organizations and the fundraisers and everything else would be completely unnecessary. But that is not human nature! Nor is it human nature to forego enjoyment -- even excess -- altogether because others are going without. The OP may wish for that to be different, and you may wish for pure worthiness to be the only factor in charitable giving, but one key to changing the world is recognizing how it works.

                  Every day I open my mailbox and there are 1-7 solicitations from charitable organizations. Even if I never attend a single dress-up event, they are all asking for the portions of my time & paycheck that go to tithing. Fundraisers cannot afford to ignore the reality of competition ... don't be disparaging about the "glamour" if that's what it takes for SHFB to succeed with donors.

              2. re: kim shook

                I agree with you, especially on your last sentence. I work for a catering company that does large scale functions, and we donate ALOT of left over food to local non-profits. I can tell you that given the state of homeless and poverty in America, alot of people would go hungry if not for the donations of left over food. We also donate alot of food not prepped, that we can't use for one reason or another (all in still good condition, not spoiled). It's just the right thing to do.

              3. Food is not, strictly speaking, wasted. In the end, it and we are generally eaten by something that in turn is going to get eaten. It's the life process. Maybe that will help dampen an obsessive concern about short-term waste and distribution inefficiencies.

                Food pantries can usually only accept closed-container items to redistribute. Soup kitchens that offer fresh food require license and greater regulation in this USA. Get rid of the regulation, and you decrease distribution inefficiencies but with heightened health risks. There are always trade-offs, and the bigger question is who should get the final say in making them.

                I don't hesistate to not finish food that has exceeded my appetite. If I can safely take the leftovers home and find a use for them, I do so; my freezer is crowded and sometimes there's no extra room. But if I cannot, I do not guilt trip myself or anyone else for not doing so. Excessive moralizing about food is an American cultural habit that has baleful consequences itself.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Karl S

                  I'm glad you said it. I've been silently reading, keeping my thoughts on this to myself.

                  It was explained to me a while back that this is a very American culture ideal when friends were sitting in Italy (with Italians) bemoaning opening another bottle of wine that they knew they wouldn't finish. The Italians laughed at them (lovingly) and explained that no one said they HAD to finish the wine.

                  We have a deep-seated cultural need to not 'waste' so we guilt our children into eating more than they should or making a display of taking home food that simply rots in the fridge. I believe that much of his comes from the depression and has made an impact on our society.

                  That said, I try NOT to waste, I recycle, etc.

                  I read an article recently about a woman dealing with her habits of wasting uncooked food and in the end she discovered it was ethically better to waste organic food than it was to buy and eat non-organic food. I found that an interesting point of view.

                2. The OP seems to have the idea that children are starving around the world because we (Americans) bought too much and didn't leave enough left for them. That is far from how world food distribution works. If you want to help children in poorer parts of the world, donate money to charities that help them.

                  1. I also don't hesitate to not finish food if someone has given me more than I can finish on a plate. At home, this doesn't happen if I am serving myself.

                    Think of how much the government and society in general is paying towards obesity and fitness when all it takes is not finishing those last bites everyday out of politeness or a misplaced sense of commitment?

                    Don't get me wrong, I am not taking away from the serious situation of hunger around the world, but I think that people could do more to help in other ways.

                    1. I can remember being in kindergarten and 1st grade (before I could bring my lunch) and us having to "clean" our plates before we could go out for recess... I'm small, have always been small, and therefore, don't eat a lot... it was pure torture for me to have to "clean" my plate! And I didn't really care about the recess, I was just plain full! I eventually met my grade school best friend, and when the lunchroom monitor wasn't looking, we would switch trays, and she would finish the rest of my meal! I truly wasn't trying to be wasteful... I just physically could not eat it all.

                      1. Might I suggest that diners ask for remaining food to be boxed to go (along with utensils, if available), and, if not wanted, be given to someone on the street who looks hungry? If no one is around, I've placed the bagged food prominately on top of a covered city garbage can (knowing that sometimes hungry people will look there).
                        Just be careful who you approach, especially if you're alone. Use your best judgment.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Snackysnack

                          While I think the ideas is a commendable, I don't recommend giving leftovers to homeless people.

                          When we lived in inner-city St. Louis, we were always approached by panhandlers asking for foodon our way in and out of church each week. After a couple of weeks, we addressed this by preparing 50 non-refrigerated box lunches that we would give to anyone who approached us. Within two weeks, most people would not approach us as they knew we carried 1) box lunches and 2) bus tokens and that they weren't going to get cash.

                          One more than one occasion, we had the box lunch thrown at us, literally.

                            1. re: jlawrence01

                              On the other hand, I have purchased meals for people begging for money and they were thankful. I've also given my leftovers to homeless people standing outside and they were greatful. Once I had no money on the subway but offered an apple - it was accepted with gratitude.

                          1. I hate it too. But, it's not about poverty or inequities in distribution (real issues, but not so simple to solve). It's about use of resources, pollution etc.