Food Waste in Rich Countries – The Most Un-Green Act of All

 fallen apples Even fallen fruit, like these apples, can be eaten if harvested properly

Serious and even dire food shortages in Mid East countries like Egypt, combined with projected sharp increases in food prices in Arab Spring countries in 2013 are sharp indicators that millions – perhaps billions of people are now facing even more lack of nutrients due to not having enough to eat. But ever increasing realities of global warming and climate change, especially desertification in  many Mid East countries are not  the main issues causing food shortages in many countries. Lack of food is also due to  sheer wasteful food production and distribution practices by both farmers and sellers of foodstuffs – often before much of it reaches the consumers who purchase it.

A weekend article recently published in Israel’s Haaretz magazine reported that this small country of 7 million inhabitants literally throws away nearly half the food produced and purchased there - often before it even reaches the supermarket shelves.

This food, consisting of vegetables, meat, dairy products and “dry foods” is often discarded if it doesn’t have a certain size, color or texture; or simply if it nears stamped expiration dates. This irony results in literally tons of food that might otherwise be entirely suitable for human consumption being thrown out into landfills and garbage dumps.

Although Israel’s per-capita income levels puts it above many neighboring counties as far as household affluence goes, there are still thousands of people living there who are classified as being under the established poverty level; and whose family members, especially the elderly and children often do not have enough food to eat to maintain proper nutrition.

Income disparities between affluent communities and poorer communities often determine how much food is actually eaten or simply thrown out. Less fortunate people are said to have varying degrees of “food insecurity”  by not knowing whether their families will have enough to eat.

As reported in Haaretz, Ilan Gilboa, a sanitation engineer for a large waste management company, said: ”A poor family will eat a whole watermelon and roast the seeds, too; a rich family will eat a few slices and discard the rest. A poor family will make toast from yesterday’s bread; a rich family will throw out what’s left of the day’s bread that same evening.”

This comment is an understatement about how much food is wasted by various households. But the problem of wasted food supplies falls just as much in the entire production an distribution network, including the large supermarket chains which have purchasing quality agreements with their suppliers concerning the quality of food that is purchased by them and sold to the public.

Regarding the poor, there are organizations such as the Leket National Food Bank that try to “recycle” leftover and thrown out food for redistribution to the needy. But even their efforts are often not adequate enough as they only manage to redistribute only a small percentage of food that winds up being sent to the dump.

As overall food supplies becomes more scarce due to increased populations and climatic and other ecologic factors, the day may come when food supplies as many now know them will be only a distant dream. Food producers and distributors can be more green by helping to reduce the amount of discarded foodstuffs while still available.

More articles on food wastes and shortage issues in the Mid East and world at large:

Food Shortages Could Force the World to go Veggie

Arab Spring Countries Face Increased Risk of Food Price Shocks in 2013

A Farmer’s Market in Dead, Dry Qatar

Hilton Hotels to Share Food Wastes in Hungry Egypt

Image Apples on the ground , by Shutterstock

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