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America Wastes About HALF The Food That It Produces While Hunger Runs Rampant Around The Globe

Tomatoes - Public DomainIs the United States the most wasteful nation on the entire planet?  We are all certainly guilty of wasting food.  Whether it is that little bit that you don’t want to eat at the end of a meal, or that produce that you forgot about in the back of the refrigerator that went moldy, the truth is that we could all do better at making sure that good food does not get wasted.  It can be tempting to think that wasting food is not a big deal because we have so much of it, but an increasing number of people around the world are really hurting these days.  In fact, it has been estimated that there are more than a billion hungry people around the globe right now.  So as a society we need to figure out how to waste a whole lot less food and how to get it into the mouths of those that really need it.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, close to a third of all food in the United States gets wasted after it gets to the store.  This is commonly referred to as “downstream” waste.  When you add all of this “downstream” waste up, it comes to a grand total of 133 billion pounds of food each year

Nearly a third of the 430 billion pounds of food produced for Americans to eat is wasted, a potential catastrophe for landfills and a wake-up call to officials scrambling to feed the hungry, according to a stunning new report from the Department of Agriculture.

The just-issued report revealed that in 2010, 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food produced for Americans to eat was wasted, either molded or improperly cooked, suffered “natural shrinkage” due to moisture loss, or because people became disinterested in what they purchased.

How many people do you think we could feed with 133 billion pounds of food?

But that isn’t all of the food that we waste.  In addition to “downstream” waste, we also have to add “upstream” waste to the equation.  Massive amounts of food are wasted each year because American consumers don’t want to eat fruits and vegetables that are “imperfect”.  The following comes from the Guardian

Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a “cult of perfection”, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.

Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards, according to official data and interviews with dozens of farmers, packers, truckers, researchers, campaigners and government officials.

And I know that as a consumer I am guilty of this.  Just yesterday, I was picking through the apricots at the grocery store looking for the prettiest ones that I could find.  Of course they were all good to eat, but most of us are in the habit of wanting produce that looks as “perfect” as possible.

As a result, a lot of perfectly good food that may look a little ratty ends of being wasted

“Sunburnt” or darker-hued cauliflower was ploughed over in the field. Table grapes that did not conform to a wedge shape were dumped. Entire crates of pre-cut orange wedges were directed to landfill. In June, Kirschenman wound up feeding a significant share of his watermelon crop to cows.

As the Guardian article quoted above noted, when you add “downstream” waste and “upstream” waste together, we end up wasting about half our food.

This is tragic, because there are a whole lot of people in our own country that could use this food.  According to one estimate, there are 49 million Americans dealing with food insecurity.  But if we didn’t waste nearly half our food, we could likely feed just about everyone sufficiently.

Globally, about one-third of all food is wasted.  That is better than the U.S. number, but it is still way too high.

At this point, we just don’t have a lot of resources to waste.  So many people are suffering these days, and this includes an explosion of crushing poverty in the country that is hosting the Olympics this summer.  Just yards away from the primary stadium that will be used by the Olympic games, people actually have raw sewage running through their homes

In the Mangueira ‘favelas’ no more than 750m away from the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, which will host the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, young families are living in makeshift houses with no sanitation.

The stadium will stage both the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympics in August, and as global superstars such as Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Justin Gatlin take to the track, the favela residents will be dealing with raw sewage running through their homes.

It has been estimated that more than 20 percent of the population of Rio lives in “favelas”.  But instead of doing something for those people, the government of Brazil has spent hundreds of millions of dollars hosting the World Cup and the Olympics.

What is wrong with that picture?

Meanwhile, things continue to get even worse elsewhere in South America.  In Venezuela, 47 percent of the country can no longer provide three meals a day for their families, and the lack of toilet paper has become a national crisis

Venezuela’s government said it occupied Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s local plant, days after the company had halted operations because of shortages of raw materials in the socialist crisis-stricken country.

“Kimberly-Clark will continue producing for all Venezuelans and is now in the hands of the workers,” Labor Minister Oswaldo Vera said Monday in a televised address from the company’s plant in central Aragua state, before signing an order to take it over, according to WSJ. The labor ministry claims Kimberly-Clark had violated Venezuelan law by firing more than 900 workers without consulting the government.

“It doesn’t matter who’s running the factory,” said Henkel Garcia, director of the Caracas business consultancy Econometrica told WSJ. “The bottom line is that there are no raw materials that anyone can afford to import.”

As the global economy continues to deteriorate, the need to waste less food and less resources will become even more acute.  Over the past several decades, we have grown accustomed to not even thinking twice about wasting food.  In fact, I rarely come across parents that insist that their children finish everything on their plates these days.

But in the not too distant future, things are going to completely change.  Even in the United States, we will eventually get to the point where every scrap of food is considered to be precious.

We are moving into a time when wasting nearly half our food will no longer be an option, and so we should start coming up with better ways of doing things as soon as we can.

About 40 Percent Of All Food In The United States Is Thrown In The Garbage

LandfillCould that headline actually be true?  Do Americans waste about 40 percent of all the food that we produce?  That sounds like an absolutely crazy number, but it is actually quite accurate according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.  What the NRDC discovered is that approximately 40 percent of our total food supply is either thrown into dumpsters by grocery stores, is discarded by restaurants, never gets harvested on our farms, or is thrown into the garbage by consumers in their homes.  Even though 47 million Americans are on food stamps and millions of children go to bed hungry in this country every single night, we continue to waste approximately 263 million pounds of food every single day of the year.  One day people will look back and regard us as probably the most wasteful society in the history of the planet.

So where does all of that food go?

Well, according to a recent Seattle Times article, “food waste” takes up more space in our landfills than anything else does…

Last year, the NRDC found that Americans throw out as much as 40 percent of the country’s food supply each year, adding up to $165 billion in losses.

Food waste makes up the largest portion of solid trash in landfills, according to researchers.

Some $900 million of expired food is dumped from the supply chain annually, much of it a result of confusion. Misinterpreted date labels cause the average American household of four to lose as much as $455 a year on squandered food, according to researchers.

The expired food that gets wasted is one of my personal pet peeves.

I don’t do this a lot, but today I am going to share a personal story with you.

Earlier today I was out running errands and I decided that I wanted to pick up some mini-cupcakes from Safeway that I just love.  I do try to eat a healthy diet, but I do also like a treat from time to time.  So I got over to Safeway, and I noticed that the only mini-cupcakes that they had out were ones with chocolate frosting, but I wanted ones with vanilla frosting.

So I went up to the bakery counter and there was nobody there, but behind the counter I saw a stack of several containers of vanilla cupcakes.  I waited until the bakery lady got back and I asked her if I could have them.

I was astounded when she very firmly told me that I could not buy them.

She said that it was against regulations.

I implored her to sell them to me.  I explained that I had come over to Safeway just to buy them and I didn’t care if they were a little old.

Again she very firmly told me that I could not buy them.

I could not understand this.  I knew that the cupcakes were just going to be thrown out, so I asked to speak to her manager.

After a few moments her manager came over and I was once again told very firmly that under no circumstances would I be able to buy the cupcakes.

So needless to say, I left the store with a sad look on my face and without any cupcakes.

Now of course I probably didn’t need the cupcakes anyway.  They are not healthy for me.  But big chains such as Safeway throw away massive amounts of very good food as well.  The level of the waste that goes on is absolutely astounding.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans that are dealing with hunger and malnutrition grows with each passing day.  I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article authored by Jason Ford entitled “I Work On The Breadline“…

I work as a cashier at a nationally known discount store. I sell clothing, cleaning products, house wares and food. The people I sell to are people of all colors, races, ages and sex, but most of them have one thing in common; EBT cards. I would say about half of every transaction I do is paid for with an EBT card. Sometimes people will use three different methods of payment. They will use whatever is left on their EBT card, then use whatever is left on their debit card, and then scrape their purse to find the remaining balance, and sometimes they still don’t have enough.

Another common trait of the people I serve besides the poverty is the poor health. The food I sell is not healthy, by any stretch. I sell potato chips, candy bars, bread, canned food, ice cream, soda, packaged meat, cigarettes and alcohol. I noticed quickly that a common ingredient of most of the foods is sugar and grains. Sugar and grains are easy to grow and produce cheaply and are used as fillers in processed food to cut cost and mask the taste of other questionable ingredients. Grains work in conjunction with sugars to inflame the body and compromise the immune system. Grains and sugars also have no nutritional value besides calories, so on top of inflaming the body; they do not provide the sustenance the body needs to survive. As the functions of the body require these nutrients the diet lacks, the body sucks these minerals from the bones, teeth and brain. Bone loss, and tooth decay and decreased brain function are the unfortunate symptoms of malnutrition. The poorest of the customers I serve are also the sickest. I have witnessed toothless mouths in the young and old. Mental retardation is also a common trait among many of them. I have even witnessed one unfortunate woman whose skin was a pale green color. These people are dying a slow starvation and they don’t even know it.

Doesn’t that just break your heart?

People are living like that, and yet America discards 263 million pounds of food every single day.

Something is fundamentally wrong with the way our system works.

So what is society going to do as the number of hungry people continues to grow in this country and around the world?

Well, according to ABC News, some scientists plan to feed them with flour made out of bugs…

A team of MBA students were the recipients of the 2013 Hult Prize earlier this week, providing them with $1 million in seed money to produce an insect-based, protein-rich flour for feeding malnourished populations in other countries. The product is called Power Flour.

“It’s a huge deal because we had a very ambitious but highly executable five-year plan in place,” said team captain Mohammed Ashour, whose team hails from McGill University in Montreal. “So winning this prize is a great step in that direction.”

Ashour, along with teammates Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, will be immediately working with an advisory board to recruit farmers and workers in Mexico, where a population of roughly 4 million live in slum conditions with widespread malnutrition.

“We will be starting with grasshoppers,” Ashour said.

Are you ready for a “protein-rich flour” made out of grasshoppers?

I know that I am not.

And in Japan, scientists have actually been working on a way to create meat out of poop.  You can read more about that right here.

Perhaps if we just quit wasting so much food we would be able to feed everybody without resorting to such craziness.

These days, an increasing number of Americans are fighting back against the colossal waste that they see all around them.  Some have even chosen to take advantage of the waste by regularly going “dumpster diving”.  The following is how I described “dumpster diving” in one of my previous articles

Have you ever thought about getting your food out of a trash can?  Don’t laugh.  Dumpster diving has become a hot new trend in America.  In fact, dumpster divers even have a trendy new name.  They call themselves “freegans”, and as the economy crumbles their numbers are multiplying.  Many freegans consider dumpster diving to be a great way to save money on groceries.  Others do it because they want to live more simply.  Freegans that are concerned about the environment view dumpster diving as a great way to “recycle” and other politically-minded freegans consider dumpster diving to be a form of political protest.  But whatever you want to call it, the reality is that thousands upon thousands of Americans will break out their boots, rubber gloves and flashlights and will be jumping into dumpsters looking for food once again tonight.

Who knows – perhaps some enterprising young dumpster diver will end up fishing the vanilla cupcakes that I wanted out of Safeway’s dumpsters this evening.

It is amazing what some of these dumpster divers are able to recover from “the trash”.  In North Carolina, one man even takes his son dumpster diving with him

A programmer by day, Todd takes to the streets of North Carolina by night, digging through Dumpsters at drug stores and grocery stores all around his rural neighborhood.

“You would be simply amazed at what businesses throw out,” he said. “I’ve only had to buy two loaves of bread all year. … Last week I had a trunk full of cereal, cookies, chips and ramen noodles.”

Todd slinks in and out of smelly places with low-light flashlights to evade rent-a-cops who will shoo him away.  Most nights, his 14-year-old son comes along.

Unfortunately, dumpster diving is not as easy as it used to be.

As dumpster diving has soared in popularity, some grocery stores have responded by putting locks on their dumpsters.

And in some areas of the country, police have even started regularly arresting dumpster divers.

But in the end, dumpster diving was not going to be a permanent solution anyway.

A permanent solution would be to quit wasting so much food.

I applaud the grocery store chains that choose to donate their expired food to homeless shelters and food banks.

We need to see a lot more of that going on.

And in our own homes we need to find ways to give more food away and waste less of it.

All of this needless wasting of food does not have to happen.  Let’s work together to find some solutions.

Government Waste: 20 Of The Craziest Things That The U.S. Government Is Spending Money On

You are not going to believe some of the things that the U.S. government is spending money on.  According to a shocking new report, U.S. taxpayer money is being spent to study World of Warcraft, to study how Americans find love on the Internet, and to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.  Not only that, but money from the federal government is also being used to renovate a pizzeria in Iowa and to help a library in Tennessee host video game parties.  These are just some of the examples in a new report on government waste from Senator Tom Coburn entitled “Wastebook 2010“.  Even as tens of millions of American families find themselves suffering through the worst economic downturn in modern history, the U.S. government continues to spend money on some of the craziest and most frivolous things imaginable.  Every single year articles are written and news stories are done about the horrific government waste that is taking place and yet every single year it just keeps getting worse.  So just what in the world is going on here?

It almost seems as though Congress actually enjoys inventing new ways to waste U.S. taxpayer money.  It seems nearly inconceivable that anyone could keep a straight face while trying to justify spending money on many of the things in the list below.

At a time when the U.S. national debt is closing in on 14 trillion dollars, government waste just seems more out of control than ever.  The following are 20 of the craziest things that the U.S. government is spending money on….

#1 A total of $3 million has been granted to researchers at the University of California at Irvine so that they can play video games such as World of Warcraft.  The goal of this “video game research” is reportedly to study how “emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace.”

#2 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the University of New Hampshire $700,000 this year to study methane gas emissions from dairy cows.

#3 $615,000 was given to the University of California at Santa Cruz to digitize photos, T-shirts and concert tickets belonging to the Grateful Dead.

#4 A professor at Stanford University received $239,100 to study how Americans use the Internet to find love.  So far one of the key findings of this “research” is that the Internet is a safer and more discreet way to find same-sex partners.

#5 The National Science Foundation spent $216,000 to study whether or not politicians “gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions.”

#6 The National Institutes of Health spent approximately $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.

#7 Approximately $1 million of U.S. taxpayer money was used to create poetry for the Little Rock, New Orleans, Milwaukee and Chicago zoos.  The goal of the “poetry” is to help raise awareness on environmental issues.

#8 The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs spent $175 million during 2010 to maintain hundreds of buildings that it does not even use.  This includes a pink, octagonal monkey house in the city of Dayton, Ohio.

#9 $1.8 million of U.S. taxpayer dollars went for a “museum of neon signs” in Las Vegas, Nevada.

#10 $35 million was reportedly paid out by Medicare to 118 “phantom” medical clinics that never even existed.  Apparently these “phantom” medical clinics were established by a network of criminal gangs as a way to defraud the U.S. government.

#11 The Conservation Commission of Monkton, Vermont got $150,000 from the federal government to construct a “critter crossing”.  Thanks to U.S. government money, the lives of “thousands” of migrating salamanders are now being saved.

#12 In California, one park received $440,000 in federal funds to perform “green energy upgrades” on a building that has not been used for a decade.

#13 $440,955 was spent this past year on an office for former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert that he rarely even visits.

#14 One Tennessee library was given $5,000 in federal funds to host a series of video game parties.

#15 The U.S. Census Bureau spent $2.5 million on a television commercial during the Super Bowl that was so poorly produced that virtually nobody understood what is was trying to say.

#16 A professor at Dartmouth University received $137,530 to create a “recession-themed” video game entitled “Layoff”.

#17 The National Science Foundation gave the Minnesota Zoo over $600,000 so that they could develop an online video game called “Wolfquest”.

#18 A pizzeria in Iowa was given $60,000 to renovate the pizzeria’s facade and give it a more “inviting feel”.

#19 The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave one enterprising group of farmers $30,000 to develop a tourist-friendly database of farms that host guests for overnight “haycations”.  This one sounds like something that Dwight Schrute would have dreamed up.

#20 Almost unbelievably, the National Institutes of Health was given $800,000 in “stimulus funds” to study the impact of a “genital-washing program” on men in South Africa.

In light of all this, is it any wonder why the approval rating of Congress recently hit another new record low?

According to the most recent Gallup poll, only 13 percent of Americans approve of the job that Congress is doing.

Just think about that – only 13 percent!

Our politicians seem very confused about why there is so much anger in the country today.  Well, there are certainly a lot of reasons for it, including the fact that the U.S. economy is on the verge of collapse, but it certainly doesn’t help that our government is basically flushing our tax dollars down the toilet and spending them on some of the most wasteful things imaginable.

It would be bad enough if the federal government was swimming in money, but the truth is that all of this waste is being committed at a time when the U.S. government is nearing bankruptcy.

Over the last 30 years, the U.S. national debt has gotten 13 times larger.  We have accumulated the largest debt in the history of the world and there is no end in sight.

In fact, we are rapidly running out of people to borrow money from.  According to the Wall Street Journal, in order to repay maturing bonds and finance the exploding budget deficit, the U.S. government will have to borrow 4.2 trillion dollars in 2011.

Eventually the rest of the world is going to lose confidence in the ability of the U.S. government to repay all of this debt.  Once confidence in U.S. Treasuries is totally gone, and there are already signs this is starting to happen, the game will be over and the U.S. financial system will collapse.

But the U.S. Congress just continues to act like it is “business as usual” and the wasteful spending just continues to get worse.  Someday historians will look back and think that we must have been a nation full of idiots and morons.

For decades our politicians have been spending us into oblivion, yet we keep sending the vast majority of them back to Washington D.C. every time an election rolls around and the mainstream media keeps assuring us that our “respected leaders” know exactly what they are doing and that everything is going to be okay somehow.

It is almost as if some sort of collective insanity has overtaken most Americans.  The path we are on inevitably leads to national bankruptcy and the destruction of our financial system, but only a small percentage of the population seems to care.

Well, in the end we will reap what we have sown.  Unfortunately, the economic pain that is coming is going to be devastating for all of us – including those of us who are awake and are trying desperately to change things.

Finca Bayano

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