Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs: the problem of food waste

By Maggie Freleng

As the holidays approach and we fantasize about the pounds of turkey, hoards of vegetables, and gluttonous amounts of sweets to be consumed, we are usually too caught up in our food lust to think about how much of that food will go to waste.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. generates roughly 30 million tons of food waste each year. Yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 26 percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. That’s a lot of useful material that could be turned into beneficial product instead of sitting in landfills leaking toxic gases into the atmosphere.

Now, you may ask, “So what? There is plenty of food in the world to go around.”  In fact, you are correct.  There is indeed enough available food to feed the entire global population of 6.7 billion people.  However, about 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes.  This is because much of that available food is over exploited and wasted; for example, your eight course Thanksgiving dinner leftovers and trash could have been another family’s entire meal.

So now you know that waste is a problem, but what can you do to help reduce? To start, try to consume less. Have you ever heard the expression “your eyes are bigger than your stomach”? Basically what this means is only buy, make, or produce what you are going to consume, not what you want to consume.  Your waste could be someone else’s meal, and based on the above statistics, there are a lot of people who are literally dying for your waste.

Here at UMass, if you have yet to notice, our beloved food trays are missing from the DC’s. That is an effort by UMass to reduce food waste by limiting the amount of food people can pile up and leave for waste. According to Ken Toong, Executive Director of Auxiliary Enterprises, trayless dining (along with education and a few other programs) has already helped reduce food waste up to 30 percent.

If you followed the above guidelines but still find yourself with excess food, there other ways you can make sure it doesn’t go directly to waste. For example, compost to improve soil fertility, donate perishables and convert excess food into animal feed so you can feed two mouths by only producing for one!

On the Web

News-2-Know is a blog created by B.J. Roche’s Journalism 301 class. Every weekday, an author will write about a topic that is newsworthy and provide links on additional resources.