By Hosanna Fortmeyer
An estimated 30-40 percent of the food produced in America is not consumed, representing 63 million tons per year. Of this, an estimated 16 percent occurs on farms, two percent at manufacturers, 40 percent at retail and food outlets, and the largest percentage at homes (43 percent). From an economic perspective, the cost of food waste equates to $218 billion per year. 21 percent of solid landfill waste is discarded food that generates methane, and around 21 percent of America’s fresh water is used to produce food that nobody ends up eating.
As we see with these statistics, the ethical implications of this food waste are distressing from both an environmental and social justice perspective. Given that one in eight people are food insecure, and that resource usage directly affects the health of our planet and its inhabitants, the issue of food waste should be the front of our national and global consciousness as we look for solutions to some of our greatest problems, such as hunger and climate change.
Let’s bring this issue into perspective here at CSB/SJU by looking at the results of some of the waste weighs held at Gorecki last semester. On Sept. 25, a back-of-house waste weigh measured 81.4 pounds of edible food waste during a 2.5 hour dinner time frame.
Exactly five weeks later, on Oct. 30, a similar front-of-house waste weigh tallied 63.3 pounds. If 1.3 pounds = 1 meal, the first waste weigh amounted to 62 wasted meals, while the second amounted to 49 meals. To extrapolate, this can only provide a rough estimate, this averages to 6,234 wasted meals over the course of a semester. And that’s just dinner.
Food waste was also assessed at the St. Ben’s annual Holiday Dinner. Last year, the edible food waste was approximately 243 pounds for the meal. This year, it was approximately 269 pounds.
So what can we do? We can work to become more food waste mindful. In trying to understand what food waste mindfulness is, it’s important to understand what it is not. Food waste mindfulness doesn’t not mean eating less than is appropriate for your body and health, so you don’t waste food. It also doesn’t mean forcing yourself to eat more than is appropriate for your body, so you don’t waste food.
The key is that food waste mindfulness is not a one-time, isolated event where you were “good” or “bad”—it is a constant and ongoing effort to become better at assessing appropriate amounts of food for your body, amounts that leave you satisfied and with as little food waste as possible on your plate. It is being intentional about what you choose at the serving lines or purchase at the store. And it’s taking seriously the great
privilege of eating and having food choices.
Judgement is not what the waste weighs is about. They are for research and to bring awareness. If that involves a little bit of guilt, that’s probably okay. But if producing momentary shame that dissipates as soon as you leave the dining center is all we accomplish, then we have failed. The goal of the waste weighs is to serve as a visible reminder that food waste exists and to inspire all of us to strive for greater food waste mindfulness as a habit and way of life. That is how we will change the numbers.
As we begin this new year, I challenge you to become a better steward, more mindful of food waste either at the campus dining centers or when purchasing and preparing food in apartments and houses.
This is the opinion of Hosanna Fortmeyer, CSB senior