I am grateful for the hearts and brains that reside in those who find solutions to problems and change the face of humanity even if only briefly or in a small localized area. Some of these superheroes are tackling the idea of waste not, want not.
To say I find the number of those living on the street in this country, in any country, alarming and upsetting seems an obvious statement to make and somewhat trite. I heard someone in political authority once say there is no solution to poverty that poverty begets poverty. I think the latter part of that statement is true. How does one break from the chains of poverty when the weight of life is so very heavy, the opportunities so limited? But a solution still exists, buried beneath the rhetoric and lip service, denying those who claim from some misguided religious doctrine that those who live in poverty are there because they have “earned” it and likewise for those living with extraordinary wealth.
Some time ago I watched a film about the waste of food in grocery stores and restaurants. I’m sure it is no surprise the facts are disturbing. Perfectly edible food ends up in landfill because it is part of doing business the big grocery stores claim. When Marketplace dug through Walmart’s garbage bins in 2016 they found a staggering amount of fresh edible food, cartons of milk still ahead of its best-before-date, cheeses, oranges. Walmart’s solution upon being exposed: build a fence around their trash bins. And as an added concern, this food was thrown in the trash without being separated for compost and recycling. Walmart isn’t the only violator, but the other big chains use a trash compactor to hide their transgressions. Meanwhile, the homeless go hungry and food banks struggle to provide quality food to those in need.
850,000 Canadians use food banks every month, reported CBC Marketplace in 2016, yet $31 billion of food ends up in landfill and composters each year. Many countries have been looking long and hard at this problem. France has banned food waste. Supermarkets are required to create partnerships with charities to keep food out of the garbage bin. Italy has taken steps making food donations easier and offering tax credits for food donations.
Government has been slow to respond in Canada, but charitable groups and entrepreneurs are thinking creatively to solve the problem of food waste, the superheroes, if you will. Toronto’s Second Harvest has been involved in “food rescue” for more than thirty years. Not Far From The Tree, another Toronto initiative, harvests fruit from trees in private yards and gets that surplus fruit to those in need. In 2015, the UN signed on to cutting food waste in half by 2030, at both the retail and consumer level.
We are consumers who insist on beautiful produce and the “ugly fruit” gets tossed because of its aesthetic value, not because of its food value. I watched a local gardener last fall grind up a mountain of carrots to put back on the land because of the imperfect appearance of the carrots. Though that is better than occupying landfill, I think of all the families who could have benefited from an “ugly” carrot. I’m rather fond of an ugly vegetable. As kids when potato harvest was upon us we looked for the lopsided, strangely shaped potatoes and we were absolutely certain they possessed an amazing power that we would inherit if we ate them. What if that were true?