U.S. Plans to Drastically Reduce Food Waste

Only take what you can shove in your face!

by Lisa Calcasola

On Wednesday, September 16, the Obama Administration, via the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency, announced plans for the country’s first-ever national food-waste reduction plan. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the ultimate goal was to cut American food waste a whopping 50% by 2030.

Vilsack compared this voluntary food-waste campaign to the littering campaigns of the ‘60s and ‘70s, when, at the time, it wasn’t uncommon to see trash thrown out of passing car windows. Vilsack and other advocates hope that in the next fifteen years, wasting food will become equally socially taboo.

There are many reasons for this new movement–not insignificantly, the 133 BILLION pounds of food that go to waste in this country each year. That’s 1/3 of our food supply, folks.

According to EPA Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg, 21% of all landfill waste is food. This food ends up emitting methane gas, which, if anyone needs a reminder, is one of those bad fossil fuels. On the social side of things, even reducing food waste by 15% would save enough food to feed more than 25 million people each year.

You’ve heard it from everyone and their mother: clean your plate. People elsewhere are going hungry and here you’ve got a perfectly good piece of broccoli to munch. Now that we, as college students, (almost) out of mom’s food tyranny, we have the power to choose what to load on our plate and what to leave. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

One of the foremost reasons Americans throw out food is because they don’t know the rules of expiration dates. (Hint: just because something has passed the date, doesn’t mean it’s expired!) We need more education on food safety and wastefulness, and more schools and institutions that can recover and recycle food waste. If you’re an app kind of person, there’s a new mobile app called FoodKeeper that tells you storage advice on over 400 foods, beverages, etc.

There are of course a few entrepreneurs out there too. In a food mecca like New York City, there are more than a handful of progressive foodies trying to tackle this problem, such as with the wastED challenge last March, in which high-end restaurants took on the challenge of serving gourmet meals out of pure “garbage” (aka recycled) food.

133 billion pounds. A third of our country’s food. That is a shit-ton of waste. Just the other day, I cooked dinner for myself and a friend; as we were taste-testing the pasta to see if it was ready, he thought nothing of throwing the part of the noodle he didn’t bite into the garbage. I think we rely too much on holding on to our dear American rights sometimes, and forget that just because we have the right to do something, doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. At some point, we have to act like responsible, accountable human beings who make conscious decisions. This is the key to my whole article here, that word, conscious – on being aware of what kind of life we want to live. Maybe I’m too much in the mood for philosophy after just getting out of my Ethics class (thanks, Fordham), but I really think that is one of the most important and worthwhile things that we, as almost-adults, need to start doing. We can have ideals and principles on what we think is right or wrong. Opinions and debates are great and valuable and encouraged, and what better place to test those theories than in college, where you won’t have an angry mob after you for having an unpopular opinion? (At least, you’ll have far lesser consequences than in the real world if you start spouting out crazy shit).

College is one of the only times in your life, and one of the last times until maybe retirement, where you have the luxury of living almost purely for yourself. Yes, you have family and friends and the obligations that come with such relationships. And yes, lots of us are freaking out about money and the future and oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-end-up-a-failure, all those childlike fears because we are still children. We are living the good life, my friends; not the best time of our lives, as many would have you believe, but definitely a considerably worry-free life (though it certainly is easy to forget half the time).

Rant aside, my point is this: not to be preachy or anything, but please, the next time you’re about to put food on your plate, make conscious decisions! If you know you’re not going to eat all the French Fries, leave some for the next guy or gal. Don’t just have morals, act them out. It’s okay to have opinions as long as you have reasons to back them up. Do your research. Do your homework. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, literally. Friendly newsflash: there’s more to life than just you.

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