Interesting Stuff

The Price of Junk Food Junk

The IDAHO FOODBANK sent us a batch of press releases proclaiming that while there are plenty of needy folks in Idaho, the rest of us pretty much “stepped up to the plate” and provided turkeys and cash for the Holiday Season to feed the hungry.

They also included a national report which explains why it costs so much to eat out.

Expert dumpster diver Timothy W. Jones, a prof at the U of Arizona, concluded that 14% of the food people buy winds up in the trash at a cost of $200 billion a year. Another $100 billion worth of edible food is thrown out or withers on the vine. cheeseburgerjake.jpg

Jones is one of a handful of “contemporary archaeologists” worldwide who study cultures by examining their trash. You just never know who you are gonna meet at the dumpster.

“People look at (food) as a commodity to be consumed–not something that nourishes and sustains our bodies,” he says. The French see food in an even different light we are told–they like to eat because it is fun and the food tastes good.

Jones and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2003 estimated that more than 50 million tons of edible food is wasted in the United States each year. The GUARDIAN calculator says that puts the value of trashed food (garbage) at $4,000 a ton.

We figure one aim of the press release is to shame us into helping the hungry, but we should help out of a sense of humanity, not to inprove the trash numbers. Besides, who has the heart to toss Auntie Jane’s Christmas fruit cake if Prof Jones is going to lay a DOUBLE guilt trip on us?
Bad enough to diss Auntie, but the hit on the economy isn’t nice either.

More info and a chance to help at http://www.IDAHO FOODBANK.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. junkyarddog
    Dec 29, 2005, 8:17 pm

    The Idaho FoodBank has a long list of stats that should shame all of us….at the very least, it’s scandalous that 300 billion dollars of edible food gets pitched every year while we have 38.2 million Americans living in food insecure households.

    I suspect the point of the press release was not to shame us into cleaning our plates at dinner but to show how one solution to solving hunger is to be better stewards of the food we produce.

    The Idaho Food Bank’s Grocery Alliance program is a fabulous example of how “almost but not yet expired” groceries can be collected and redistributed free of charge to local pantries and food banks who place it in the hands of the poor. Feed the hungry while reducing waste plus you get to keep Aunt Jane’s fruit cake! Talk about a win-win situation for everyone 🙂

    Ed note–Dog, the point was how to get rid of the fruit cake without feeling guilty. I wouldn’t even give her fruit cake to hungry people. You obviously don’t know Auntie Jane!
    (We are supporters of the Foodbank)

  2. I really hate waste and try to run my kitchen so that almost no food is ever thrown away. My freezer often has bits of leftovers that are incorporated into soup eventually.

    One of the strangest things I have seen was when a co-worker looked at an unopened can of Campbell’s soup, noted the “expiration date” and tossed it into the trash.

    Before companies were required to date stamp canned goods I suspect thousands of cans of soup, vegetables, pie filling, etc. were stowed in the backs of pantries and vacation cabins for years before being consumed, along with vacuum sealed jars of sauces and vegetables. I was always told that if a can was not punctured or dented and the ends of the can or the jar lid showed no sign of swelling then the product was OK to eat.

    There has to be a lot of waste in this area especially at foodbanks which would especially have to worry about giving out bad food. Why are canned goods date stamped? Would someone with expertise in food preservation please set me straight?

  3. junkyarddog
    Dec 30, 2005, 4:45 pm

    Well heck, you mean you actually feel guilty getting rid of fruitcake? Do what I do and pitch it out the back door for the squirrels :-).

    In answer to TJ’s question, I’m not a food preservation expert but I do handle about 4-5 tons of donated food a month for a local food pantry…and those expiration dates are something to keep an eye on. Cans are stamped to let us know the optimal time for quality and vitamin content which is anywhere from 2-7 years. Most canned food is good for an additional 2 years past the expiration date. After that, the vitamin content drops and the quality of the food goes down. The folks at Dinty Moore once told me that while their beef stew “never expires”, after about 5 years all you are getting is calories and zip in the vitamin department.

    Many of the manufacturers will also tell you that really old food runs the risk of having the soldering fail which can allow in toxins. (most cans today have no seam however) While a bulgy can is always an indicator of toxins, not all cans bulge when the inside has been contaminated.

    Those dates are guidelines and while most people won’t get sick eating old food, you do run the risk of it happening. That’s why foodbanks live by the adage, “When in doubt, throw it out”.

  4. Thanks, junkyarddog, somehow your name says it all! I rarely eat old food, but I guess if I stumbled upon an abandoned cabin after being lost in the woods I would worry less about vitamin content that being poisoned. Thanks to all the Food Bank drives I rarely have canned or packaged food around for more than a few weeks. I hope we will all keep moving our excess food purchases to the food distributors. There are many people out there whose budgets have been destroyed by illness, accident and loss of work. Helping these folks makes for a better community. Happy New Year everyone.

  5. Another little post: I volunteered at the Food Bank some years ago but the people at that organization seemed to resent volunteers – I got the idea that the paid employees were afraid for their jobs, maybe rightfully so. So I would not volunteer there again, but I do think they do good work in collecting and distributing food to the needy. I think all their employees should be paid and not feel threatened by volunteers. This is a problem at many so called “non-profits” including the two huge hospitals in Boise.

  6. If everyone would buy less food for themselves, take less prepared food, eat what we take, we would all weigh at least 10% less and others would get something to eat. Try not eating for 24 hours straight every week or so. Bet you can’t do it!

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