Food Waste: It actually is a big deal

HCC Pasture

My greatest takeaway from my internship at the Hannaford Career Center has been gaining a deep appreciation for the work that goes into producing food, especially meat. People spend many months raising animals that are meant to be eaten, not thrown in the trash. There are so many issues with the idea of food waste, but the biggest one might be respect. It doesn’t seem like it, but it’s disrespectful to throw away food. Someone did exhausting manual labor for months to take care of that animal. Someone did the heartbreaking job of slaughtering that animal. Someone took the time to inspect it and make sure it was safe to eat. Someone transported and distributed it to us. Most of all, the animal gave up its life for our consumption. Though it didn’t choose that fate, the reality is that it died for us. To throw away meat is to disrespect all of the players listed in that chain.

I was talking to a coworker who raised two lambs over several months. After the lambs had been processed and frozen the freezer somehow got accidentally unplugged. All of the meat from both lambs rotted before anyone discovered the mistake. She told me that she cried for days after it happened. Her time and hard work over the past few months felt like a complete waste. Hearing her sadness over the loss of the meat, I felt like I really understood the significance of food waste for the first time. Food waste is not to be taken lightly. A huge amount of effort that we often don’t appreciate goes into what is on our plate. We must honor those who brought it to us by enjoying what we have in front of us and making use of as much of it as possible.

Forced to Support a System You Don’t Believe in

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-t2UEuf_DSk

This video is a piece of slam poetry telling the story of a young black boy affected by racial inequality and the corrupt food system. I found this piece very relevant to our reading of Why food belongs in our discussion of race. This poet provides a powerful account of how the food industry is tainted by so many unethical practices, but people, especially minorities, do not have other options. He talks about how the protagonist, James, does not know that he is participating in such an unjust system by biting into his food; all he knows is that he is hungry. This piece effectively captures the ironies of being bound to a food system that you don’t support.

My Food Systems Contribution

Work Boots

This is a photo of my work boots after three weeks of being out on the farm. Though they are not yet completely broken-in with experience, they have begun to accumulate quite a bit of dirt during their recent usage. Much like my working on a farm, these boots are pretty new and still have more hard work ahead. Me and my boots have seen some difficult days navigating our introduction to the inner workings of a meat farm, but I have confidence that by the end of the summer, I will feel confident in my food systems contribution and that my boots will stop giving me blisters.

The Potential of Food Hubs

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMGjE4ITBxs&spfreload=10

This Ted Talk addresses the need for farmers to have more sales opportunities outside of typical wholesale markets. Only 1% of food in America comes from direct to consumer channels, such as CSAs and farmers markets. This leaves many farmers forced to “sell out” because the direct market is already saturated. Marcel, the speaker, describes how food hubs could play a role in this system. The food hubs aggregate produce from many smaller operations, sell it as wholesale, yet treat the farmers fairly. By working with a food hub, farmers are able to establish a relationship with a trustworthy buyer. Many large-scale food operations are known for not actually caring about their farmers/farm workers. Food hubs are small enough that they have the resources to help the farmers they work with and are designed with the farmers’ needs in mind.

We had the opportunity to visit a food hub the first week of this program. I had never heard of one before and was a bit confused about their purpose. I now see their potential to benefit both the consumers and producers. Food hubs, like the one in Hardwick, seek to bring fresh, healthy foods to consumers and help producers grow their businesses. I think they are a great idea and will become more important to our food system in the future.

 

My Food Story

My food story begins in my 8th grade anatomy class. To this day, that remains my favorite class that I have ever taken throughout my schooling. I was fascinated by the human body and found myself reading about the subject during my free time as well. The material became so much easier because I was genuinely interested. When we got to the unit on the digestive system we watched Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, and I was in awe of the profound effect that food choices had on the body.

As I learned more about the importance of nutrition I realized that even the foods that I had always considered “healthy” were anything but. In my 10th grade health class we did a unit on nutrition and watched Food Inc. I’m sure everyone in this program is familiar with this eye-opening film. For the first time I really questioned where my food came from and if I should be eating it at all. Upon hearing the disturbing statistics about the growing rates of type II diabetes and obesity, I knew that I wanted to be part of the movement to combat these issues. I still loved learning about health and realized that jobs existed where I could help people be healthier and learn more about food systems. From that point on I have wanted to become a nutritionist.

I declared my major in Health Sciences as a freshman at Gettysburg College. I was able to take a nutrition course the following fall and since have not been able to look at food the same way. In most respects I am very thankful to have learned the truths about which foods are harmful and could potentially lead to life-threatening diseases. At the same time, there are some moments when I wish I were blissfully ignorant; for example, every time I’m offered a French fry. A student once asked our professor what the number one worst food choice was and unfortunately the French fry came out on top. Instead of enjoying the salty, deep-fried taste, I can’t help but ponder how much trans fat it contains and how it will affect my body.

Throughout my study of food systems this summer, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the implications of healthy eating. For example, I would like to investigate the financial feasibility and availability of eating a balanced diet. One of my biggest concerns is the unfair paradox that people of the lowest income simultaneously experience the highest rates of obesity and disease. Throughout history those statistics had been the exact opposite. Clearly the issue at hand is the changing types of food available in the United States. By the end of the summer, I would like to be able to say that I have a better idea of where America’s natural food comes from and how we can ensure that everyone can access it.