Tristram Stuart’s TED Talk on food waste did a great job of breaking down the layered ways that food is wasted across the globe. Not only do we waste food everyday on a personal level, but supermarkets waste pounds upon pounds of edible food. On an even larger scale, large farms and corporations waste massive amounts of food, throwing it away if it is deemed “unfit” for supermarket shelves. Another shocking revelation he presented was factories that throw out the “bread ends” of loaves of bread — since it is “unfit” (or rather, not profitable) for store-produced sandwiches to be made with the bread ends. He shows a photo of a gigantic dumpster container filled to the top with day-fresh bread ends.
He then brings up 2 important points: with over a billion hungry people in the world, it is intolerable to be discarding food rather than finding ways to feed people. On top of this, it is intolerable to be causing environmental harm to grow food that often ends up as surplus supply that no one even eats.
Stuart’s call to action, however, was underwhelming. Tell corporations that we don’t like food waste? This is an issue of being locked into a system where making money trumps efforts to pursue more complex solutions that would re-structure the food system. When farmers are beholden to supermarkets that have standards about the size and shape of potatoes and when governments pass laws that prohibit supermarkets from donating or otherwise reusing their food waste, it becomes clear that this is a larger systemic problem — not simply a lack of awareness or a lack of desire to stop wasting things.