By Cameron Ruen, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County
Food is wasted all along the supply chain, from the moment seeds are planted in soil through the final tip of a dump truck at the landfill. “Just Eat It” brings this invisible fact to the forefront by documenting many ways food and its nutrients are discarded.
Surprise and astonishment were evident by gasps in the audience at the unsightly amounts of food being discarded at many points in the food chain. Examples included celery plants being stripped of outer stalks to conform to packaging constraints, peaches that do not pass inspection due to grocery store appearance requirements, packaged food removed from grocery store shelves days before misunderstood labels dictate freshness or expiration, dumpsters full of food perfectly good for donation, the amount of food thrown away from consumers’ refrigerators, and the list could go on. The food industry is complex, massive, and lucrative to say the least.
The One Earth Film Festival organized the event and a post-film discussion that invited audience members to share the most impactful moments of the film. These included images of throwing away a quarter of a person’s shopping bags directly after purchase, producing one hamburger uses the amount of water used in an hour and a half shower, the fact that best by dates are not indicative of food safety, the point that composting may make people feel better about wasting, and the perception that eating what you take at school may be positive or negative depending on how you look at waste or intake quantity.
Panelists gave examples of what they bring to the table in ways of wasting less food. Three Loyola cafeterias rotate their menus to best utilize food resources in menu planning and procurement, and has found that using trayless service is key to reducing the amount of food students put on their plate. Zero Percent partners with local restaurants to put good food to use for non-profits. Collective Resource picks up food scraps from its customers and hauls them to a composting facility to make soil amendment.
The panelists included:
- Moderator: Hanh Pham, Sustainability Program Manager at Loyola University Chicago
- Reduce: Bill Langlois, Senior Food Service Director at Loyola University Chicago, Aramark
- Reuse: Sarina Gambino, Director of Partnerships, Zero Percent
- Recycle: Mary Beth Schaye, Zero Waste Consultant, Collective Resource
The film undoubtedly brought awareness of food discards that could have found a different fate if action were taken to rethink waste along the food chain.
What can you do about food waste?
By diverting food scraps in any form, big or small, you are contributing to the broader effort to curb this unnecessary practice. Do not be discouraged by thinking of how small actions may be, for this effort needs to include every aspect of the food chain. Like an ecosystem requires every actor to play its part, so must we all contribute to reducing and recovering food and its upstream resources in any way possible.
Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Resources
- Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork To Landfill, an NRDC report
- EPA Food Too Good To Waste program
- Wise Food Storage and Prep Video by King County
- Visualizing Food Waste’s Footprint Video by FAO
- Eureka Recycling: Prevent Wasted Food