Growing up, I can vividly remember my parents stressing the importance of not wasting food. At every meal they insisted I clean my plate, no matter how unappetizing the night’s menu seemed. My parents insisted that it was wrong to waste food, especially when “there are children in Africa who don’t have any food to waste.” Other than images of malnourished African children, this always made me think of the homeless population of my own city. However, what rarely came to mind was how our country systematically wastes food on a large scale.
Wikipedia defines “food waste” as: “any food substance, raw or cooked, which is discarded, or intended, or required to be discarded”, according to the legal definition of waste by the EU Commission. Also according to Wikipedia, the United States EPA defines food waste as: “Uneaten food and food preparation wastes from residences and commercial establishments such as grocery stores, restaurants, and produce stands, institutional cafeterias and kitchens, and industrial sources like employee lunchrooms”. With either definition in mind, it is clear that overproduction and poor distribution of food, coupled with American’s freighting inclination for over consumption creates tons of wasted food.
This fact is even more alarming when one considers the large portion of the American population who struggle to find food. Nearly 3 ½ % of United States households experience hunger, according to the Bread for the World Institute. For the most successful country in the western world, to allow that large a portion of our population to go hungry is unacceptable. Could more be done to curb hunger and malnutrition domestically, or globally? Sure it could.
The fact that over three out of every hundred Americans don’t get as much food as they should comes as a surprise. Some academics contend that as much as a quarter of the food produced in the United States goes to waste. Even more alarming is the fact that these numbers are much higher in developing countries.
One recent trend which may combat the levels of food waste being generated in the United States is “freeganism.” In short, freeganism is a practice by which people purposefully seek out others waste for their own consumption. Freegans usually have the money to buy food if they wished, but prefer to utilize what others discard, in an effort to minimize waste on a global scale. Freegans regularly recover food from dumpsters, a practice appropriately coined “dumpster diving.” While this may seem like a last resort to gain the sustenance one needs to survive, freegans see themselves as rebelling against capitalism.
This is not to suggest that this practice is the end all of world hunger. This is not even to suggest that this is a viable means of survival for the average American household. This article is written to bring light to American’s wasteful habits, and explore at least one counter cultural idea that is fighting back.