Sunday, March 28, 2010

What We Eat . . . and What We Don’t

LoneStart Wellness is (in part) about making mindful, positive choices when it comes to nutrition and physical activity. Most of us know what we “should” eat, and what we “shouldn’t,” but, here’s a fun—and interesting exercise (pardon the pun).

Open your refrigerator and look inside. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that Americans waste about 30 percent of all edible food produced, bought, and sold in this country—and even acknowledges that this figure is probably low. In fact, the National Institutes of Health say that if we were to add up all the losses that occur throughout the food chain, Americans, on average, waste about 1,400 calories a day per person. If you’re making mindful, positive food choices, that’s a little more than two full meals.

Remember how mom always said, “Clean your plate. Children in (name the foreign country) are starving.” Here’s another take on this. If you add up all the resources required to grow the food that’s “lost” as it progresses from the farm that produces it, to the processor that converts it to what we buy, to our plates, would you believe that our wastefulness results in 25 percent of all freshwater and 4 percent of all oil consumed in this country? This is for food we don’t eat.

And, there’s more. About 13 percent of all municipal solid waste consists of food scraps and edible discards from our homes and commercial food-service establishments. That's 30 million tons a year. There’s more still . . . When that food reaches the landfills and decomposes, one of the by-products is methane, which has 20 times the global-warming potency of carbon dioxide. Based on Environmental Protection Agency data, rotting food may be responsible for about one-tenth of all human-related methane emissions.

Up to one-fifth of America's food goes to waste each year, with an estimated 130 pounds of food per person ending up in landfills. The annual value of this lost food is estimated at around $31billion. According to USDA statistics, more than 5.4 billion pounds of food are lost annually at the retail level, while 91 billion pounds are lost in our home kitchens, restaurants, and institutional cafeterias. In other words, food-service and consumer loss make up 95 percent of all food waste—96 billion pounds each year.

So, now we’re back to mindfulness. While we’re not advocating cleaning your plate just to avoid waste, we are suggesting smaller servings—the amount we need, no more, no less.

And, look what we can accomplish for ourselves, our individual health and our environment by better meal-planning, using leftovers creatively, and making just enough—instead of too much. It’s a simple, healthful solution. Seems obvious . . . what do you think?

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