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This is the second episode in a quarter-long deep dive into the general theme of Consumption. This episode is headed up by Laura about Food Waste - a look at the food we don’t eat: why we don’t, where it goes, and how to do better - all through a “Live Justly” lens.
In this episode, Laura talks about how an estimated 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, and according to even the most conservative estimates, Americans waste 160 billion dollars worth of food each year. One of the biggest wastes of food happens at the farm - overproduction, weather or insect damage, and perfectly good crops left to rot because of labor shortages.
At the consumer level, confusion about sell-by dates contributes most to food wastage. We take some time discussing how arbitrary and unscientific sell-by/use-by dates are, and then have a quiz based on real-life questions from Laura's secret food group friends.
Next, we discuss two big areas of injustice happening with regards to food waste.
Human justice: people are still hungry. 15 million American households in 2017 experienced food insecurity. That’s almost 12% of our population. While food banks do valuable work for communities, the root of the problem is a political one. Overproduction is possible because it's so cheap to produce food - because we underpay our food workers from farm to table.
In "The High Cost of Cheap Labor," Philip Martin, a professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis, concludes that raising farmworker wages 40 percent across the board would add a mere $21.15 to the annual budget of every American household. (Remember, we supposedly waste almost $2000 worth of food per family of four, per year.)
We touch briefly on the atrocity of prison labor. You can find more articles on that in the show notes.
Secondly: Climate Justice. Carelessness with overproduction is causing great harm to the environment. The energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of food that ends up in the trash, generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Then once it is in the trash, food waste in landfills is responsible for 23% of all methane emissions and 4.5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions [source].
Finally, we talk about what we are doing in our household to reduce our food waste; what's happening at a local level; and what needs to happen globally. Packaging waste is a big problem, especially since Americans are bad at recycling properly, and we talk about a new initiative to eliminate single-use product containers for big brands in many households.
Ultimately, it's up to us to do what we can, where we can.Support Glimmering Podcast
- Improving date labeling policies and practices can decrease consumer confusion, which will not only reduce food waste, but also improve food safety. — Improving date labeling policies and practices can decrease consumer confusion, which will not only reduce food waste, but also improve food safety.
- Food Recovery Hierarchy | Sustainable Management of Food | US EPA — The Food Recovery Hierarchy prioritizes actions organizations can take to prevent and divert wasted food.
- How Reducing Food Waste Could Ease Climate Change | Food Waste: from field to fork — The energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of that wasted food, meanwhile, generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.
- What 'Sell By,' 'Best Before' And 'Use By' Dates Really Mean — How (and why) to safely ignore the "sell by" dates and avoid wasting so much food at home.
- Food Waste | ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility) — Food waste in landfills is responsible for 23% of all methane emissions and 4.5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste also includes precious natural resources, accounting for 25% of water, 30% of fertilizer, and 31% of cropland wastage in the U.S.
- Thread by @SarahTaber_bww: a rant about the Ugly Produce companies — The food system is a hot mess but using ugly produce is one thing it's actually really good at. Using every single part of what's grown, if there's any possible way to sell it. The one big source of food waste that I *do* worry about is crops that are perfectly good, and rot in the field bc the farm can't get anybody to harvest them. (Orrrrr they don't want to pay enough for people to come harvest them.)
- Thread by @SarahTaber_bww connecting the Japanese internment to criminalizing Latinx immigrants — The initial call for Japanese internment came mere hours after the Pearl Harbor bombing, from the Salinas Valley Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association. AKA, Japanese internment was initiated by the California farm lobby.
- Op-ed | Here's the ugly truth about the ugly produce movement — One take on the problems with the ugly produce companies: VC-backed startups are commodifying need and undermining food banks and CSAs while they're at it. It's a market solution disguised as activism.
- How governments around the world are encouraging food waste initiatives — A comprehensive list from Winnow, a commercial kitchen technology company designed to reduce food waste.
- The High Cost of Cheap Labor - Modern Farmer — Raising farmworker wages 40 percent across the board would add a mere $21.15 to the annual budget of every American household.
- Prison Labor in America: How Is It Legal? - The Atlantic — Inmates at Angola, once cleared by the prison doctor, can be forced to work under threat of punishment as severe as solitary confinement. Legally, this labor may be totally uncompensated; more typically inmates are paid meagerly—as little as two cents per hour—for their full-time work in the fields, manufacturing warehouses, or kitchens.
- Prison strike 2018: federal prisoners work factory jobs for much less than the minimum wage - Vox — Because prison labor is so cheap, federal and state governments can sell prison-made goods and services to private companies at rock-bottom prices, creating a labor-market incentive for mass incarceration.
- How Long Does Your Favorite Food Last? StillTasty.com | Your Ultimate Shelf Life Guide — How long will your favorite food or beverage stay safe and tasty? What's the best way to store it? Get the answers for thousands of items!
- High Desert Food & Farm Alliance: local food for Central Oregon — A Central Oregon non-profit improving food access, supporting farmers, and creating a more equitable food system.
- Help! I don’t know how to recycle anymore. | Grist — ...for years and years and years, American consumers never thought twice about what they threw away. It was China making its big “No thanks!” announcement that has forced us to realize that what we discard may actually not have any greater destination than the landfill. It’s like atheism, for waste.
- Meet Loop, the new zero-waste platform for consumer products — TerraCycle worked with companies like Procter & Gamble, Nestle, PepsiCo, Unilever, and more than a dozen others for over a year to develop the new platform. Each package in the system is designed for 100 or more uses.
- Don't Fear That Expired Food : The Salt : NPR — Those "sell by" dates are there to protect the reputation of the food. They have very little to do with food safety. If you're worried whether food has started to go bad, just smell it.
- Buy Recycled One-Use Paper Products — If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees. We are going to phase out of Kirkland brand household paper goods, and start using recycled or reusable alternatives.