Sustainability is a word often mentioned. It is a complex concept that can have different meanings when applied in various contexts, yet, in essence, sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. For food, one of the most basic and fundamental human needs, sustainability has an added dimension. While much of the current global food production methods can contribute to the worsening climate crisis, it’s difficult to muster the support to take the necessary steps to protect the future when food insecurity and hunger are critical concerns. If we can’t feed those here now, how can we protect those in the future? Maybe we can do both.
The problem of food waste
While there are certainly areas of the world where food production is lacking, that is not the problem here in the U.S. Although not the only issue, the biggest problems are food waste and poverty, which creates hunger. This is from the United States Department of Agriculture’s website on food waste:
How much food waste is there in the United States?
In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply. This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. This amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on society:
- Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills.
- Land, water, labor, energy and other inputs are used in producing, processing, transporting, preparing, storing, and disposing of discarded food.
Rescuing food that is perfectly edible and nutritious that would otherwise be discarded can help alleviate hunger and thereby reduce poverty.
Local actions can provide global solutions
There are many reasons why America leads the world in food waste, but it mostly is a combination of poor planning, poor practices and a lack of awareness. In other words, these are issues that are easier to remedy than not having sufficient quantities of food. The USDA estimates that just one-third of the food waste in this country could all but eliminate food insecurity.
The role nonprofits can play
Nonprofits have positioned themselves to be the conduit for bringing excess food to the people in need. They arrange for collection of food from various local resources, such as grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants and bakeries and establish a food pantry or other similar venue to provide the food to the hungry. Sustainability need not be an unattainable ideal; we can make it a reality.
Caterina’s Club has served over 5.8 million meals since we began. Your donation makes a difference; please help in any way you can.