Food waste contributes to economic disparity, ecological calamity

It’s incredible that millions of people in this country don’t know where their next meal is coming from. What’s even more incredible are the billions of pounds of consumable food that is casually tossed in the trash every year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled their plan earlier this month to cut food waste in half by 2030.

We waste 133 billion pounds of food every year, according to the press release. This huge amount consumes 25 percent of American’s freshwater supply annually and accounts for 14 percent of U.S. methane emissions once it starts rotting in American landfills, according to a 2012 report by the National Resources Defense Council. This is in addition to the millions of acres of land, energy and chemicals needlessly frittered away in our never-ending quest to fill our supermarkets to the brim.

Such an astronomical figure is especially tragic when one-sixth of Americans were “food insecure” in 2014, according to a report from the USDA. That number translates to 48.1 million Americans who lived in fear of not being able to afford food or were unable to afford food in 2014.

In San Francisco, the high cost of living means a family of four has to earn double the national poverty level annually in order to achieve food security, according to a 2013 report by the San Francisco Food Security Task Force. In District 7, where SF State is located, just over 18 percent of residents risk food insecurity, according to the report.

So, who’s to blame? We are.

The NRDC estimated that Americans throw out 25 percent of the foods and beverages they buy. The study attributed the majority of consumer waste to confusion over proper storage, label dates and a general devaluing of food in the minds of the American public.

Our food waste is getting out of hand. Americans waste 50 percent more food than we did in the 1970s, according to the NRDC. Food is cheaper and more readily available than it was then, leading American households to purchase bulk foods in excess quantities at a whim.

What all of this adds up to is an entrenched system of excess built to marginalize the poor and increase the profits of the rich. We fill our supermarkets and refrigerators with more and more food as we value it less and less. It is unacceptable that we continue to squander so much while so many have so little, and our country and the world march blindly toward the brink of destruction at the hands of resource depletion and climate change.