First World Food Problems

Food Waste - First World Food Problems - #WasteLessI just read an article on NPR titled “Wal-Mart, America’s Largest Grocer, is Now Selling Ugly Fruit and Vegetables” and was immediately overcome with joy. Huzzah! Grocery stores, as well as consumers, are starting to understand the importance of food waste and sustainability. This is truly a step in the right direction. The gritty details are that Wal-Mart will begin selling 2-and 5-pound bags of dented apples at a discount in 300 of its Florida stores. We all know that dented apples, misshapen carrots and frumpy potatoes are a regular occurrence on the farm and that the unfortunate fate of such produce is to arrive at a landfill. What a waste – literally. The water, soil and other resources that went into the production of shabby sweet potatoes is lost and can’t be recouped when otherwise perfectly good food is directed toward the landfill. So, this decision is more than welcome in my eyes and if the dented apples migrate their way to Kansas, I will not shy away from a bag. My apple pie doesn’t discriminate against dented apples.

However, while reading the same article, a secondary thought popped into my head: I can’t believe Americans are so damn pretentious that we won’t buy “ugly” fruit and vegetables at full price. Additionally, I can’t believe we avoid ugly fruits and vegetables so much that selling dented apples is a headline on NPR. I mean, let’s stop and think about the significance of the decision to forego a misshapen apple in favor of a perfectly circular Granny Smith. Is there any nutritional difference between ugly and attractive fruit? Nope. Is there a financial disparity between a wonky potato and a perfect potato? Shouldn’t be. Yet, it takes our world facing water shortages and shrinking land supplies for Americans to actually sit up and say “Hey, I will make a sacrifice and make my kids eat non-cylindrical carrots.” This truly is a case of #firstworldproblems. I highly doubt folks in India, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East give two wiggles about whether or not an apple is dented. People in this world are starving and we are worried about shabby strawberries.

I mean, for cripes sakes, we only spend approximately 11% of our disposable income on food here in the United States – couple that with the most abundant food supply in the world and you can see why it’s been so easy to dump out ugly fruit for the past several decades. I think about what my Depression-era grandparents must think of mine and my parents’ generations (can’t blame this one solely on millennials!) when they see pounds and pounds, 133 billion pounds per year to be exact, of good food thrown to the garbage because it’s not visually appealing. They must think we are so selfish and horrible – I’m ashamed just sitting here writing this.

This is my fridge - lots of leftovers that we are working very hard to make sure we eat. Garden veggies in the blue bowl as well, and I try to incorporate those into dishes or share with neighbors so nothing goes to waste!
This is my fridge – lots of leftovers that we are working very hard to make sure we eat. Garden veggies in the blue bowl as well, and I try to incorporate those into dishes or share with neighbors so nothing goes to waste!

The good news is that you, me and our friends can incite change! I am excited for a brand new campaign that was just launched by the Beef Checkoff that aims to whip us all into shape when it comes to food waste. The 30-Day Food Waste Challenge will open your eyes to new ways to combat food waste – whether that be through meal planning, stocking your pantry, making planned-overs or just planning your shopping trip a bit more strategically – there are a whole host of ways you can lessen your food waste and help improve food chain sustainability. So click on over to the Food Waste Challenge landing page to find out how to get involved and how you can share your positive food waste-reduction stories with consumers. I’ll be completing the challenge and posting updates periodically here as well, so come back soon (or enter your email in the right sidebar and receive posts in your inbox)!

Food waste affects us all, so let’s start change where it matters most – right here at home, around our supper tables.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


This post was previously featured in a Masters of Beef Advocacy: Advocacy in Action Newsletter.