Are You Going to Finish That?

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tackling food waste

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Do you ever find yourself taking the little things in life for granted? I think about how fortunate I am every day, but when I moved into my first apartment during my undergrad years, I realized that I too had overlooked some of life’s simple pleasures.

Like most people, I enjoy eating a variety of foods, but learned that grocery shopping for one doesn’t always allow for that. Take for example, the time I bought a cantaloupe. I was so tempted by the other summer produce, but knew that it would go to waste if I bought too much. As I ate my melon day after day, I reminisced over my family’s fridge, which was always full of variety. When I moved back home during the summer, I couldn’t wait for study-free nights and a kitchen full of options.

Back in a household of four, I could live without fear of food going bad… or so I thought. One day, I noticed a bunch of bananas turning brown, so naturally, I made it my mission to finish them before they went bad. As my mom watched me eat the mushy bananas, she assured me that I didn’t have to finish them. But how could I let food go to waste? I might have made myself sick from eating overripe fruit, but at least it was for a good cause.

Light-hearted memories aside, food is a major issue for a number of reasons. Today’s methods of producing food include unsustainable agriculture and aquaculture practices that result in lower quality food, barren land, and significant damage to ecosystems and the species within them. What’s more, many are left hungry, as we are currently facing a food shortage, coupled with volatile food prices that make it difficult for poorer families to sustain their health and well-being.

The World Bank states that over one billion people lived on less than a dollar of food a day, and over 900 million were considered undernourished even before the world’s food situation was officially declared a crisis. Despite all of these issues, food is still being wasted at a dramatic rate, especially in wealthier countries.

If you find yourself on the more fortunate end and are blessed with an abundance of food, I urge you to make a contribution towards the crisis. Some notable figures already have, like Bill and Melinda Gates, who through their foundation, launched a fertilizer development program to help tackle the food shortage issue. But I’m not asking you to take on the crisis in such a grand sense. Instead, I encourage you to plant something in your garden, purchase produce from a local farm, or like me, not let any of your household’s food end up in the trash.

Get creative and put your food to new and delicious use! Instead of eating brown bananas like I did, put them in the freezer and blend them into an ice cream, or thaw them when you’re ready to bake some muffins. Blend other overripe fruit into a smoothie, put meat in the freezer before it expires, use mealy apples to keep brown sugar from clumping, turn end pieces of bread into croutons, and plan your dinner around the vegetables that needs to be used next. It doesn’t have to be boring; using your food wisely can introduce you to new recipe ideas, while helping the larger issue at hand.

When the global food crisis is put into perspective, throwing out produce that’s a bit too ripe seems ridiculous when thinking of the millions that have nothing to put on the table. With this in mind, I encourage everyone to shop wisely, eat mindfully, and of course, keep your garbage bins empty.

  • Sandra Dedesko

    Sandra Dedesko is a recent graduate of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. She has a high interest in energy efficient buildings and sustainable urban development. She's currently working towards a Masters degree and industry career in this area.

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