Repost: Food blog no. 1 - waste not, want not

I'm headed off, with Ellie Perkins, to a conference in Brazil, called Adaption Futures. It's all about how we are living and will live in a hotter, crazier, more ecologically unstable world. Since things have been a bit busy at the end of term, I'm recycling blogs!

HERE'S an updated REPOST. It was originally Published May 6, 2010 

My friend and colleague, Prof. Ellie Perkins recently forwarded an article to a number of us about the "cost of eggs". I assumed that it was all about the nutritional value of hens' eggs and expected to read that I could soon keep chickens in my back garden in Toronto - and why not? Vancouverites can. With the advent of the growing season, I am currently in an "urban agriculture" headspace, as well as engaged in the ongoing battle to increase the number of vegetarian meals that my family eats (for both cost and carbon footprint reasons) to over 50%. It turned out that Ellie's article was a very curious piece about the high value placed on the eggs of students with high SAT scores by couples hoping to conceive via fertility treatments and egg donations! Eggs are parts of life cycles, and all organisms need food as they go through their life cycles. Food security and sustainability of supply are huge issues. When I began teaching ecology at York in 1991, global per capita food production had been steadily rising. In recent years, per capita food production has been declining for various reasons, but there is still enough food to feed the world, if we could get it distributed.

Tristram Stuart's book Waste, highlights the issue of how much food is wasted as a result of our industrial-scale approach to agriculture and best-by dates which result in enormous quantities of food being thrown out. Many families throw out much of the food from their fridges and GOOD magazine tells us that the average American wastes 0.5 lbs of food per day. In the original post, I quoted a statistic, for which the weblink is broken, that in London, England, 176,000 bananas are thrown out everyday. Since then, there's been a lot of interest in the UK in tracking wasted food. Both GOOD and Stuart point out that, if diverted appropriately, this wasted food, could address issues of hunger quite seriously and it could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Another way of putting into perspective the information about just how much food never makes it into people's stomachs, is to take a look at the excellent series, What the World Eats. It is based on the book, Hungry Planet, and shows photos of families from around the world with their weekly groceries spread out before them, as well as the cost. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and this is the book that I would want to see in everyone's house, on the kitchen table.

The 2001 AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment, is also an excellent resource.

So, take-home message number 1 - eat ALL of the food that you buy for you and your family. Do this before thinking about eating locally or organically or turning vegan - which I'll cover later. Reducing food waste at the local kitchen level takes a lot of planning and is hard work. I DO THIS, and so can you. Follow GOOD's and Martha's advice and plan weekly family menus. Freeze leftovers and use up food that's on the edge of going off. As Gordon Ramsay  points out, time and again, in his books and tv shows - good restaurants waste very little food - they would not make money if they did.

Dawn R. Bazely