The Moral Obligation to Preventing Food Waste

May 15, 2016

There is something to be said about wars. There are internal wars, and there are wars that are fought on the hard lines. It is my own conviction that there is no such thing as a “moral war,” unless you are talking about personal struggles, the battles that everyone fights internally at one point or another. One particular internal struggle that people face on a daily basis is hunger. Hunger is global. Hunger is omnipresent. The richest of the rich can experience it, and the poorest of the poor experience it every single day of their lives.

 

It was John F. Kennedy that said “The war against hunger is truly mankind's war of liberation.” To liberate is to give freedom, and perhaps comfort and happiness as well somewhere along the way. But, to that point, it was also John F. Kennedy that said “So long as freedom from hunger is only half achieved, so long as two thirds of the nations have food deficits, no citizen, no nation can afford to be satisfied. We have the ability, as members of the human race, we have the means, we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth in our lifetime. We only need the will.” This was FIFTY years ago. Can you say with confidence that you are “satisfied” with the fact that 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy and active life? If you were to double the population of the United States, you still wouldn’t match the number of individuals dealing with hunger on a day-to-day basis. In a world where the world’s third richest continent per GDP per capita - Asia - is the continent with the largest amount of individuals going hungry (two-thirds of its total population), you can see that there is more to be done.

 

So what is there to do? One plausible concept would be to work towards cutting back on food waste and distributing potential waste to places where it can go to better use. An estimated 25-40% of food grown, processed and transported within the United States will never be consumed. If that isn’t absurd enough, more food reaches landfills and incinerators than any other form of trash in the United States. This adds up to an estimated 70 billion pounds of food waste in the United States each year, further proving that preventing said waste would go a long way to combat hunger.
 

In Cleveland, we have seen a huge rejuvenation of both industry and inner city development in the past ten years.  Gentrification has consumed the downtown area, and in that, many of those lower on the economic scale have suffered because of it. There is a vast number of individuals going hungry due to these facts. This isn’t just the case in Cleveland, this is the case in pretty much every state in the United States. Having lived in Cleveland my entire life, I know first-hand just what gentrification and economic downturn has done to people around here. I’m not saying that gentrification is a bad thing (an economy in any sort of decline certainly is), I just have a few proposals that could be for the benefit of all in regards to not wasting perfectly good food. What Cleveland’s local grocers could do is follow the French model for their supermarkets: Donate unsold food to charity.

 

France became the first nation in the world to ban supermarkets from wasting food in a new law enacted in February 2016. Now, I’m not advocating for any law that mandates such a thing in Ohio or even the United States, but if any state or US politician is reading this, I’m certainly not saying you SHOULDN’T look into writing a law such as that. For Cleveland area food grocers, you are capable of donating unused food without any law forcing you to do so. You are fully capable of making pacts with local area food banks to make sure the food you would otherwise throw away is put to good use.

 

Here at Cleveland State University, we have an all-you-can-eat buffet style dining hall in which students can take as much as they want, with very little dictating the size of the portions that they take. Countless times I have seen students put full plates of food onto the tray line, presumably to be thrown away into the trash. This cannot stand when there are such a large number of students going without food. Our dining hall could take measures to donate potentially wasted food to on-campus organizations such as Lift Up Vikes, an organization that helps to feed students in need. This would help ensure that students always have an opportunity to feed themselves if the unfortunate situation arises where they cannot.

 

The moral obligation to preventing food waste is an obligation that assures that every able-bodied person works towards effectively using potentially wasted foods and in turn contributing to the end of world hunger. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once spoke in regards to poverty and said: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have enough; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” To pass the proverbial test of progress, we must assure that every ounce of food is put to good use.

 

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