Saturday, October 21, 2006

You can't just let it go to waste

The other day, I made a salad. A darn good one, too--it's a Willow Cottage specialty--spring greens, small chunks of sharp cheddar cheese, dried cranberries, Granny Smith apples, walnuts, and raspberry vinaigrette. But I only needed half of the apple, and seeing as I wasn't in the mood for the mouth-puckering sensation of eating a Granny Smith all by itself, and had no other designs for this crisp apple half . . . it went to waste.

I could have just worked it into some recipe somehow; I've got lots of other kinds of apples sitting around, and I'm sure I could have baked up an apple pie or crisp or whatever. But we don't need any more food, and Mr. Wonderful and I aren't exactly eager to say to each other, "well, there's just more of you to love."

As I was scolding myself about my poor stewardship of this crisp, beautiful apple--and the many other things that I throw out each month--I felt sad.

Because it's not as if stuffing more food down my throat--or anyone else's--is going to alleviate the hunger of starving children across the world. And I couldn't very well send that half an apple to a kid in Zimbabwe, could I? That's the trouble: if the food is already here, sitting on the shelves of my local supermarket, it's either going to be eaten here in North America by people who have plenty of food, or it's going in the compost heap.

If I have food, but don't know what to do with it, and I eat it just to make sure it doesn't go to waste (not because I'm hungry), I am doing nothing to alleviate world hunger or even being a good steward of the resources I have. I am simply assuaging my conscience, and getting fatter while I'm at it. And that definitely isn't good stewardship, either.

So then I thought, maybe I shouldn't have bought the apple in the first place; if I didn't know what to do with the whole thing, that was probably a bad consumer choice. And that's probably true. But then, if I become really careful about what I buy, purchasing the minimum amount of food possible, aren't I making it more difficult for hard-working farmers to make a living?

There's a veggie stand a couple of miles away that I like to buy from, not so much because the food is good, but because the older couple that runs it looks like they could use the money to supplement their meager Social Security checks each month.

Anyway, if I leave the apple in the bin at the store or the fruit stand, it's not like that suddenly frees up food to be sent elsewhere.

But food does get sent to the world's hungriest places--I know that, and I want to support it as much as possible. But world hunger is not the result of a global food shortage; grain is regularly dumped in the ocean to regulate prices. Nor is it the direct result of obese North Americans hogging and wasting all the food. The trouble is that some governments are determined to starve their people, and won't accept aid--and that we don't work hard enough to move the food supply where it really needs to be (instead of, say, dumping it in an ocean, it would be nice if we could ship it across an ocean . . . but then, it still might be rejected).

In the grand scheme of things, maybe I should be less concerned with throwing out a half of an apple than with my failure to change the systems that withhold food from the people who really need it.

Wasting food is a nice, tidy kind of sin to commit. But it's only a front--a distraction--from the great omission.


Christie said...

nice post. I wrestle with similar thoughts. one of my main things about throwing food away is thinking that I could have had a potential meal but instead i go out and buy something else. I think it can also tie into money.

Sometimes I find myself eating for the sake of not wastiing and as you pointed out that's not really a good thing.

Way to remind us to think bigger picture! We need both he micro and macro.

have a blessed day,

brannabee said...