Eat your crusts!

Do you remember hearing your parents say that when you were young? The rest of the comment was usually reinforced with the fact that there were children starving in Africa. Guess what? There are still children starving in Africa (as well as many other places) and there are reports and studies released that say the amount of food we waste here does have an impact on poverty and hunger in the world. Our parents had it right all along!

One report full of interesting data was commissioned by the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. They discovered that the amount of food wasted by consumers in North America and Europe is equal to the amount produced in sub-Saharan Africa – 222 million tons. Per capita, we waste over 100 kilograms of food per year, while people living in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia waste only 6-11 kilograms per year. In addition, the reasons food get wasted are different. For us, it is more often a case of throwing food in the garbage, whereas in developing countries it is often due to poor conditions in getting the food to the consumer (this is called “food loss” instead of “food wastage”). Those are sobering figures, aren’t they?

This dilemma gets even more intriguing… have you heard about the drought in California? Did you notice the lack of snow this past winter? That means there is less water around to be used for irrigation, not to mention the water that was not in the ground this spring as farmers planted their crops. I wonder, is it more of a shame if we use water to grow crops that end up getting wasted? It’s rather a vicious circle, isn’t it? Hopefully the question has come to mind, “How do we make it better?”

One important thing to remember is that we have a voice (I know, I sound like Oprah; well, on this point she was right!) Consumers can make a difference by letting suppliers know their preferences and their desires. Superstore started advertising this year that they were selling "ugly vegetables" (so far this program has only operated in Ontario and Quebec). If you don’t mind buying crooked carrots, let your grocer know. Someone from a country full of hungry people once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I believe Mr. Gandhi had a good point.

Another point worth considering is that processed food accounts for a larger proportion of food waste than raw food (items you prepare yourself). The package of frozen French fries you bought is made from potatoes that were sorted and then also re-sorted as fries, with all the bits not included in your package usually being wasted. Your homemade fries are more likely to include end pieces of potato and fries of different sizes.

The comment that struck me the most in the report was this simple statement:

Abundance and consumer attitudes lead to high food waste in industrialized countries.

We can afford to waste food. It can be cheaper to buy a large package of broccoli at Costco than it is to buy the one head you need; even if you throw some out you saved money, right? This seems to go back to that old comment… just because you don’t feel like eating those crusts doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the impact that waste has on a larger scale. We could say we have worked hard to afford such luxury, and everyone is doing it. But that just makes me think of another old parental comment: “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you do that, too?”

I for one, am making a concerted effort to cut back on abundance. I only planted one zucchini plant in the garden this year. I am sowing smaller rows of radishes and lettuce alternately so it doesn’t all come up at once. These small measures will help me remember the importance of respecting my food. It would be rude of me to waste things when there are children starving in the world. If I do end up with more bounty than we and our friends can manage, I plan to donate it to the local food bank or one of the soup kitchens.

In closing, I'd like to offer one more quote from Mahatma Ghandi:

The future depends on what we do in the present.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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