Food. As a society we not only consume it but we are ruled by it, often culturally characterized by it; bombarded with advertisements and everything from produce to the fastest of foods. With such a large influence on our daily lives and basic survival, it is strange—and honestly sad—when one takes a step back and looks at the American food dilemma through a broader, more logical lens.
Just to throw out some statistics; the Natural Resources Defense Council supports that nearly 40 percent of food produced in United States gets thrown away every year—often without making it to retailers, shelves or the homeless and meal-less. Regarding the percentage that does make it to stores and ultimately your home, studies have shown that due to “sell-by” dates and lack of timely use, 15 to 20 percent of bought food gets wasted by every American household on a yearly basis. As for the affected people, according to the USDA 49.1 million lived in food-insecure households in the year 2013, a number that has increased through subsequent years.
What is all this waste about then? Interestingly enough, our society has been trained to reject completely edible food if it is not aesthetically pleasing, an idea that has been reinforced by strict USDA guidelines on visual food standards. This means that much produce is deemed worthless from a capitalistic perspective, making it prime waste material. And that is truly what it is, wasted.
Venturing into the home-food arena, you might be surprised to discover that “sell-by” dates are actually just non-standardized guesses. These arbitrary dates are not only inconsistent across single companies, but they attribute to a main percentage of wasted food. Strangely, “sell-by” dates are only legally required on baby formula by the federal government; making the corporate and social American stigma of following these dates seem quite odd indeed. The misconceptions on “sell-by” dates leads to turning down perfectly good food at stores and food banks alike, with many fears raised about potential lawsuits—of which there are zero recorded cases—when donating these foods to the poor.
The massive quantities paired with the every-growing hunger problem make this not so breaking news worth addressing. All things considered, talk show host John Oliver supplies that maybe the solution will come from “resolving to eat uglier fruit… taking expiration dates with a grain of salt [and] no longer worrying about getting sued by high-powered lawyers who represent the hungry.” America has the food, but it isn’t using it.