Love Letter to Food

“Dear Food, you probably already know this, but I need you.”

So begins a touching new video, “Love Letter to Food,” created by YouTube channel MinuteEarth. The channel’s planet-minded production team joined forces with families, farmers, and friendly faces to drive home the reality of food waste in the U.S.

“Roughly 40 percent of the United States’ food supply is never eaten,” explains the University of Minnesota study, which preceded the video. “At 1500 food calories lost per person per day, that is twice as much as most other industrialized nations and 50 percent more than was lost in the 1970s.”

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Photo by Dwight Sipler via Wikimedia Commons

Even though I’ve talked about food waste before, I still find these numbers shocking. Nationwide, obesity has skyrocked since the ’70s, and we’re wasting more food than ever.

As you’ll see in the video below, waste is happening in more places than the kitchen. In fact, every step of a food item’s journey from field to fork is fraught with the peril of perishing at the hands of humans in one way or another. Whether it’s a crop left standing to rot due to high harvesting costs, proverbial spilled beans, milk gone sour, bruised banana skins, or misleading label dates, the woe of waste often seems to have a common denominator: we take food for granted.

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Photo by Paul Asman and Jill Lenoble via Wikimedia Commons

Even as the rapidly rising global demand for food threatens the very survival of our species, food is cheaper and more readily available in our country than our ancestors could have dreamed possible. It comes in rainbow colors, eye-catching cartons, super sizes, and all-you-can-eat.

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Photo by National Cancer Institute via Wikimedia Commons

“Part of the problem is that on average, I spend a smaller fraction of my household budget on [food] than in any other country or any other time in history,” states one of the video’s stars, CGP Grey. “My spending is spread out over days or weeks, so I don’t notice the cost of wasting [food]. But my lack of noticing adds up.”

In addition to wasting the food itself, the University of Minnesota study’s authors Alexander H. Reich and Jonathan A. Foley tell us, “Tremendous resources are used to produce uneaten food in the U.S.: 30 percent of fertilizer, 31 percent of cropland, 25 percent of total freshwater consumption, and two percent of total energy consumption.”

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Photo by Tony Atkin via Wikimedia Commons

I know you share my punch-in-the-gut reaction to these statistics, but this is one of those issues I feel like I can tackle, starting today. I don’t need a how-to manual, a support group, more money, or special doo-dads.

I just need to appreciate food.

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Photo by Roger Braunstein via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s the video that got me to thinking and speaking out …

Leave a comment 7 Comments

  1. Wow, what an eye opener! I know there are programs like ” Share a Row for the Hungry” but this is not enough. We as Americans, are always all about looks and beauty ( yep- a beauty contest for foodstuffs) and if it’s not perfect looking we reject it. This is one of of the many ways we waste so much food.
    I was a Thanksgiving dinner once and when the meal the over, the hostess took the entire turkey, meat still on the bones and chucked it in the waste can. I was never so appalled. I asked her if I could take it home and she refused. I told her about making turkey hash, turkey soup and boy, even open faced turkey sandwiches ( there was that much left!). She said she ” didn’t have the time to deal with the turkey”. This is just one small example of how we as Americans don’t value our food.
    I have travelled all over the world ( 38 countries ) and we as a nation are the only ones I have seen to not value or appreciate all that we have to eat. People elsewhere cherish their food and meals are nearly always a celebration and full of thankfulness. I have shared meals with those who gave me what precious little they had.
    I’m not sure what to do to help. I as a single person living alone take pride that I do not waste food. I have lived very close to the edge financially and never take my meals for granted. I grow a lot of what I eat but as an heirloom seed company sometimes need to let a foodstuff go to the last of its life cycle to save the seeds properly. As a last resort I can always feed what’s left over to the coons and wildlife.
    Lets us reconsider our way of living and eating and support our farmers especially.

    • Karlyne says:

      That turkey story, Lisa, is sad, but it makes me laugh, too, because it reminded me of A Christmas Story, where the Bumpus’ (the neighbors) dogs snuck into the kitchen and ate the Christmas turkey. “No turkey sandwiches, no gallons of turkey soup, no turkey hash…”

  2. Deborah McKissic says:

    This video really makes you think…the American way of life is shown here, for sure. I grew up with the saying “waste not, want not”. Nowadays, people would laugh at that comment…we do need to support our local farmers markets and farmers…there would surely be less waste if we shopped weekly from them first. The super stores are not helping..for some reason, everyone thinks they need a membership..need to shop there, in bullk..and waste it…I make a list weekly..a menu for the week..and shop from it..and do not get extras unless it is for pantry staples…like olive oil, beans, garlic, flour, etc. I find I do not waste food this way…meals are planned, food is used..and then the next week rolls around..it is nice to know “what’s for dinner?” ahead of time..especially after a long day in my own gardens…and, sometimes, when there are to be burgers on the grill and it is storming..well, the days switch around..and, that’s ok with all of us…and, if something in my garden does not look edible, I toss it in my composter and it becomes next years garden soil to nourish new plants..we can all do a little to make a big difference..it all starts with that first step….

    • Karlyne says:

      I don’t know that it’s just the box stores which encourage waste, though. It’s more of a matter of mind-set, I think. I shop at Costco, for instance, but I don’t think that I waste much of anything. But then I don’t buy cereal or junk food or even too much produce. I buy a fair amount of things in bulk, because I can’t really get them anywhere else, such as walnuts and almonds. We live a fair distance from town, so I like to stock up about once a month. And toilet paper doesn’t go bad, so I love having that on hand!

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is a poignant video for sure. It makes so much sense in just 3 short minutes. Not wasting food is important to me and I do try to be a good steward. Our MJF magazines and Farmgirl Connection has been such a resource of organic and frugal tips for better eating, gardening, and increasing knowledge about sustainable agriculture. For all the bad habits we need to fix, I feel more hopeful now than I did in the 1980s. The evidence is in and the younger generations are leading the way to better agriculture and animal husbandry. There is much to do, but there are more positive signs now than ever!

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