The State of Food Waste: Freeganism

wJack turbin 8334Jack Paxton is a UC Davis alumnus, professor emeritus of UIUC, teacher at UC-San Diego, and looks every bit the part of a respectable academic. Yet he’s trying to get
ordinary people to talk about a topic that many consider the territory of young hippies – freeganism. Freeganism is a lifestyle based on minimizing consumption and waste. In part, this means what  calls “waste reclamation” – something I, Paxton, and most Americans refer to as “dumpster diving.”

Dumpster diving and waste reduction carries a certain stigma in our society. Most individuals will turn their noses up at the thought of eating “reject” produce or packaged foods even a day past expiration date. Knowing this, sellers set very high standards for products that can go to market and stay on the shelves - an NRDC article  estimated that 40% of edible food in the US is thrown away.

You may be thinking, this is all very well and good, but what is an article about dumpster diving doing on a sustainable agriculture blog? I’m glad you asked. A pillar of sustainability is not taking more than what is needed. When food is thrown out, that means the resources used to produce it – land, fertilizer, fresh water, and (in the case of meat) feed – have gone to waste. We are taking more than we need by growing more than we need and being able to throw food out.

Even today, this is a luxury many cannot afford, and that includes those in our own area. 15.9% of Americans are food insecure, and Champaign county, home of one of the greatest centers for agricultural research, also boasts a rate of 16.7% food insecurity.

One bright spot is that living in the age of the Internet means that food waste can be redistributed at all levels of production much more easily. But it looks like we’re out of spaaaaaace here, so I’ll tell you about these resources next week.

Further Reading