04 September 2012

Throwing Away Perfectly Good Food

Mitt Romney and the top half of his muffin are right up there with average Americans, who, it turns out, throw out somewhere between a third and half of all food produced, depending on the study you read, and probably whether you're counting industry waste (unsold bananas) or just household waste (that uneaten head of lettuce).

As a refugee after World War II, my mother -- six years old at the time -- had to help her mother beg, borrow and steal food for themselves and three younger siblings.  My father was born during the Great Depression, and while he never went hungry, some foods were scarce and my grandmother got into a habit of Never Wasting Anything that persisted for the rest of her life.

Wasting things, and particularly wasting food, makes me crazy.  No, it's not actually true that there's a kid starving in Africa because you don't want to eat that Brussels Sprout.  But it might be true that there's a kid going hungry in Africa because of drought caused by overconsumption in North America.  

And one aspect of overconsumption is buying food you'll never get around to cooking, or throwing away the cheese rather than shaving off a bit of mold, or tossing a carton of milk because it's reached its "expiration date" without bothering to check if, in fact, it's still okay. 

The environmental hit is pretty heavy -- food waste is the largest single component of US landfills, and the amount of petrochemicals used to till the land, ship the soybeans to the cows, ship the milk to your neighborhood store and thence to your refrigerator, and finally, unused, to the dump, is significant.

So when Mitt's handlers try to pitch his cutting off the top of a muffin every single day and routinely throwing away the bottom half "because the butter sinks to the bottom while it's baking" as some kind of discipline, it makes me want to spit.