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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Politics of Food Production and Food Distribution

Here are some figures that will shock most Americans:

* 350 billion pounds of food are produced annually in the United States.
* 140 billion pounds of food are lost to waste annually in the United States at the retailer and consumer level.
* The United States spends about $1 billion annually to dispose of food waste.
* 12 million children in the United States are either going to go hungry today, or are in danger of doing so.

Startling.  If we were to somehow be able to distribute the food that will be wasted among all children who might go hungry today, we could give each child about 11,000 lbs of food each year.  That would far exceed their own needs.

Many of our legislators think that to solve the issue of poverty  and hunger by throwing money at the problem.  However, the problem has it's roots in money.

Food has been turned from a source of life, into a commodity.  We no longer have the innate knowledge that it took life to make food, and food will in turn provide life to us.  And, no, I'm not talking all vegan here, every face is sacred.  I like meat.  I'm talking about the sweat and blood that goes into producing food.  You waste a pound of food, you've wasted 8 hours of an individual's life.  If 1 pound of pork goes wasted, you've wasted about 16 hours of a person's life.

Thankfully, Clinton signed the Good Samaritan Act into law, which prevents retailers who donate food from being sued for it.  However, there's a definite shortcoming somewhere here.  We still have tons of food being wasted, and tons of people who need that wasted food.

What's the answer?  I don't know a complete solution, but I do know a few ways to cut back on food waste:

* Shop from local farmers.  By doing this, you are enabling farmers to accurately gauge demand, and tailor supply.
* Grow your own food.  When you see and feel the amount of work that goes into food, it will change your attitude on how you approach food, and food waste.  It will stop being a commodity.
* Compost.  This is another way to get some bang for your buck.  I don't consider anything going into a compost pile as "wasted".  You are producing a product (Soil amendment), and you are diverting it from the land fill.
* If you grow your own food, promote gleaning.  Gleaning is a term used in the Old Testament, which described the practice of harvesting only once, and leaving the hard to harvest areas alone.  And, it also allows for travelers and indigents to harvest what has been left.

These three things wont solve the problem, but it will reduce the amount of waste.


  1. If I did all these things (which I do, btw) how am I helping the hungry kid get his 11,000 lbs of food? I'm not doing anything at all for him/her, of course. I salve my conscience by reducing the waste from 11k to say... 10k per kid. None of which the kid gets either way. This is what Fails in the Progressive world time and time again. The solution is too complex to make a slogan for it, but Reduce, Reuse, Recycle makes the Progressive feel better, so that is good enough for him.
    Homelessness and Hunger are no more'distribution problems' than they are moral failures of the well-housed and well-fed. Your statistics are nicely done, but its also true that everybody who eats carrots will also die. This cannot be controverted, even though it is just as much a non-sequitor as your premise is.

    1. You grow your own food, and allow gleaning?

      Mark, one of the big issues that demonstrates it's a distribution issue, contrasted with a supply issue, is that tons of food that is perfectly good gets tossed out daily in WNY.

      Day before expiration? To the dumpster it goes. Easy fix, take that food, and deliver it to people who have no food.

      Distribution problem. Not a supply problem. We have plenty of supply, the distribution system is faulty.