By Manifesto Joe
Here's a day-after-Thanksgiving thought. According to a new study, 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is thrown out. The waste, per person, has gone up by 50 percent since 1974.
Here's the news link.
It's bad enough to have wasted 26 or 27 percent of U.S. food back in '74 -- that's ridiculous, considering how many people in the world were hungry then. The amount of hunger is at least as bad nowadays, and stands to get worse with climate change.
As much swinelike behavior as there is in America, what with people rushing into retail stores to trample the help to death on "Black Friday" (see my posts of about this time last year), this seems to me the most criminally swinelike thing of all.
It would be hard to believe that people act like this if it wasn't so evident in public situations. Where I work, we have a community refrigerator, and one has to be careful using it because of the quantity of leftovers, and even the newly purchased food, that is forgotten, sits in the box for weeks, and rots. Some of us there are vigilantes, throwing out spoiled food to make room for the fresh and get rid of the rancid smells. But, this has to be a large number of our employees who are guilty of this negligence, because the problem is so pervasive, stubborn and recurrent.
For one thing, with the U.S. economy in the tank as it is, it's astonishing that a lot of people even think they can afford to be so wasteful. Most Americans only 75 years ago, during the Great Depression, wouldn't have dreamed of it. What kind of transformation has happened, in what is historically such a short time?
Perhaps there is some cultural element involved. I haven't had a lot of experience with people from other cultures, but what I've seen gives me the impression that they eat leftovers and try not to overbuy. "It's a sin to waste food," I once heard a young woman from Germany say.
Why do I feel this way about it, as a baby boomer, a member of the most pampered generation in American history?
Well, I wasn't typical of my generation. My folks weren't well-off to begin with, and my dad got sick with a terminal illness and had to go on disability when I was 11. Food simply wasn't wasted in our house unless it was so far-gone as to be a health risk.
I remember eating a lot of hamburger, cheap chicken, pasta, potatoes, canned tuna, salmon patties, white-trash beans and cornbread, canned or frozen vegetables and fruit, homemade sandwiches, stew and such -- steak was a rare Sunday luxury. Fish? Other than what came out of cans, that was Mrs. Paul's sticks with some ketchup, or occasionally some catfish that my grandfather caught in a nearby lake.
Leftovers were refrigerated and eaten the next day. There was a lot of cold cereal and skim milk for breakfast. Our vegetables often came from a large backyard garden. This was South Texas -- for a time we had a big orange tree in the back yard, and it was my job get up on the tree and pick the oranges for fresh juice.
It wasn't quite the Depression during my small-town '60s childhood. I never went hungry, and no, I never had to walk more than maybe a third of a mile to school. But the lesson was never lost on me that one should never, ever take eating for granted.
I suppose there's no way to legally bust the kind of piglike hominids who commit this waste, but it could certainly be made into something socially unacceptable. With all the social pressure that's been brought to bear on the slinking minority that U.S. cigarette addicts have become, one would think that this wouldn't be a very hard follow-up.
If it were up to me, I'd make it something thought of as on a par with drunken driving or domestic violence. It does unspeakable harm to many -- but the perpetrators aren't compelled to look upon their victims in court, or in the morgue.
Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.