California Throws Away Enough Food to Fill 35 Stadiums

What's worse than being one of the five million people in California who can't afford to buy groceries? It's living in a state that wastes enough food each year to fill the Staples Center 35 times over.

Despite an uptick in food insecurity, California throws away 6 million tons of edible food every year, according to a new analysis by California Watch and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. What's even more startling is that food accounts for more than 15 percent of California's total waste stream.

This really isn't big news — as a country, we waste 40 percent of the food available for consumption — but the astonishing thing to me is the excuses some companies and individuals give for not donating perfectly good food to people and organizations that really need it.

Many grocers say that they are reluctant to donate perishable items to hunger relief programs because they fear being held liable if someone gets sick from eating the food. However, there are fairly well-known federal and state laws that shield companies that donate food in good faith from responsibility if an illness occurs. If I can find these laws by doing some simple Googling, why can't a multi-million dollar corporation with a giant legal department figure it out? Seems like a pretty poor excuse to me.

Also, with California being the nation's premier agricultural producer, you'd think that excess food unable to be sold to consumers would be gleaned (the act of collecting leftover crops after a commercial harvest) or donated right? Well, that doesn't seem to be the case. There are differing estimates about just how much food is recovered from state's farms, but the fact remains that millions of tons of fresh, nutritious produce are left to rot every year.

It's even more confusing when you realize that gleaning is an obvious "win-win" situation for both farmers and hunger relief organizations. For allowing gleaners to come onto their land, farmers get a tax write-off and organizations benefit from being able to obtain vast amounts of healthy — and most importantly, free! — fruits and vegetables.

In the end, it's pretty obvious to me why more food isn't being donated in the Golden State: it's simply too much of an inconvenience. While it would certainly benefit California's hungry families if some extra effort was put into donating excess food, the reality is that it's simply easier, and many times, more cost effective, to simply throw it away.

So much for caring for your fellow man, huh? (4.09.2010, Greg Plotkin)


Americans Waste 40% of Their Food

In the United States, it seems that food is everywhere we look.

Driving down the highway, we see signs for a plethora of fast food restaurants, and food companies spend millions of dollars each year coming up with new value-added food products to attract consumer dollars.

This has not only resulted in an increasingly overweight population, but a citizenry that has begun to waste food at levels never seen before -- even in the middle of a recession and with hunger rising.

A new study has found that Americans waste 1,400 calories per person per day, or nearly 40% of the county's entire food supply.  But that's not even the most disturbing statistic.

In order to produce the 1,400 calories that Americans toss into the trash everyday, we use one-fourth of the country's supply of fresh water.  In addition, three hundred million barrels of oil are used each year to produce food that eventually just gets thrown away.

What the heck is wrong with us America?  This is completely and utterly unacceptable.

I would assume that a lot of this food waste comes from more institutional culprits -- restaurants, hotels, corporate offices -- but that doesn't mean that we're not responsible as individuals or that we shouldn't all strive to reduce the waste in our lives.

There are many easy ways to do this, including donating excess food, composting and most importantly (this really seems like common sense, but I guess it's not) only buying what you or your family can eat.

Food waste is actually the first thing I ever wrote about for Poverty in America, and what I said (well, it's really what the USDA said) then is even more important now: recovering just a fraction of the food we waste in this country would feed millions of hungry people.

So what are we waiting for?


Fighting Hunger With Technology

The USDA agrees (pdf) and notes that “Food recovery efforts are often limited by financial and logistical constraints that make it difficult to match recovered food with potential recipients.”

Utilizing the power of technology and social networking, a group called is trying to address these constraints as part of the 2009 Dell Social Innovation Competition. is being conceived as an:

Online tool that will match non-profits feeding low-income individuals with the produce from groceries, markets, and farms that would otherwise go to waste. Imagine online dating meets your neighborhood produce section. “Food need profiles” will match up information fields including produce type, amount, geographical location, refrigerator storage space and availability of transportation for pick ups, so that the produce reaches the organizations with the greatest need, and no food is wasted.

By targeting non-profit organizations (instead of individuals) with more capacity to procure, transport and distribute food, this tool has the ability to turn the pounds upon pounds of wasted food in the U.S. into a much-needed infusion of nutrition into the lives of the food insecure.  But there’s one important condition.

Restaurants, cafeterias, farms and even ordinary eaters must be committed to turning their waste into another’s food.  Without buy-in from supply-side groups, this tool is bound to be nothing but a food “wish list” for non-profit organizations.

If realized and effective, would also allow non-profit organizations to reallocate funds which would have been used to purchase food to other much needed services.  By recovering unwanted food, non-profit budgets could be used more effectively to combat the multiple causes of hunger and poverty instead of simply meeting an immediate need.

If you think has a great idea, I encourage you to vote for their project.  The winner of the competition receives a $50,000 grand-prize to put their idea into action.  I’d love to see what a little technological innovation could do to fight hunger and end food waste. (3.19.2009, Greg Plotkin)


"To Achieve World Government it is necessary to remove from the minds of men their individualism, their loyalty to family traditions and national identification" Brock Chisholm - Director of the World Health Organization
"A society whose citizens refuse to see and investigate the facts, who refuse to believe that their government and their media will routinely lie to them and fabricate a reality contrary to verifiable facts, is a society that chooses and deserves the Police State Dictatorship it's going to get." Ian Williams Goddard

The fact is that "political correctness" is all about creating uniformity. Individualism is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the New World Order. They want a public that is predictable and conditioned to do as it's told without asking questions.

"The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first."   Thomas Jefferson

America the Beautiful

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