‘Mom, I can’t eat anymore’, I’d complain but my mom would look at me disapprovingly and say, “Take all the time you need but you’re not wasting a single bit of food”. As a kid, I never understood why throwing away food was so morally callous to her. I couldn’t understand how the food I wasted at home could be connected to the hungry people around the world. Wasting food was not something you’d get to do at our place. It was a hard-limit for both my parents and mom would even make me and my brother put the few scrapes of food we’d leave on our plate outside in the balcony for the birds to eat.
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the poor”, mom would say and now that I look back, I consider that lesson as the most important lesson my mother taught me. She taught me how every bite of food we eat takes energy to grow, process, store, transport, sell and cook. What really intrigues me though, is how little we seem to care and how little we respect the energy that is wasted in creating a single bit of food. In a world where 1 out of every 7 people go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger, some of us are so much heartless that we don’t mind throwing some portion of food every day. An average of 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year yet, we have people starving to death every day.
We are all facing harder times at the grocery store. The era of cheap food is over, economic conditions are tough and most of us feel the pain. It didn’t matter to me when mom did all of the cooking and filling the pantry but now that I’m learning how to run a life, I’ve realized how important it is to select food manufactured locally than buy one that has traveled all around the world. Adulthood has taught me not to encourage long journeys powered by fossil fuels when you can get almost the same thing that has traveled significantly less miles. I know that the one bottle of exported jam or ketchup i don’t buy is not going to lessen the foodprint dramatically but I also know that this isn’t a lost cause because every single drop of water in the sea matters and when I have someone to accompany me while shopping, I give so many references of foodprint that it would be injustice to my words if they didn’t follow my suggestions.
“I wish everybody shopped the way you do”, a shopkeeper said when we were buying vegetables one day. I’d read an article about The U.N. campaign encouraging people to reduce the “foodprint” by embracing oddly-shaped and strangely-hued fruits and vegetables and insisted that we follow that. I’ve now been vegetarian for 9 months. It started as a bet with a cousin of mine but now it feels like a sage’s advice. Trying to eat less like a carnivore and more like a vegan has given me the satisfaction of knowing that I emit about 1,300 pounds less CO2e per year than the average American assuming that they eat the same number of calories, when many vegetarians in fact eat fewer.
We human beings being the smartest primates ought to be at least capable of knowing our limits about the quantity of food we can intake. Almost all of us, with the exception of babies have the ability of judging the level of our hunger so taking a portion bigger than you can intake doesn’t make any sense at all. If I were to run a restaurant, I’d make a rule of charging double as a penalty to those who leave a single bite of food and give a 50 percent discount who clear all the contents on their plate. It all comes down to common sense but luckily, from our shopping cart to our kitchen and even when we’re eating out, there are lots of ways that we can waste less food to save money and protect the planet. We can look for recipes to use food before it spoils, split a dish or order a smaller portion when dining out, rearrange our pantry and refrigerators to check out the stock time and often and embrace leftovers.
Imagine what it would do to our human civilization if every child, man and woman on this planet had enough food. It would change our societies, stop wars, put an end to suffering and even change the course of human history. It could create a paradigm shift, a new era of peace on this planet. So we should count our blessings and be thankful for what we have. Some problems can never be solved but foodprint is not among them and with a little bit of effort, we can do wonders and make this world a better place.