Can America Feed Itself

Our next post is part of a series by our women’s philanthropy liaison Judy Allen. If you missed her last entry, catch up here.

Is it possible for a country having near limitless information, innovation and technological advancement to come up short in something as basic as food?  When we can find a grocery store open anytime of the day or night and spread the table for the holidays, is it possible to show up and find nothing?  When we export over $136 million of food, feed and beverages and import over $115 billion in fish, fruit and vegetables yearly, could it be that we still can’t feed ourselves? (US Census exhibits 6/7 – 2013)

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) say there is more than enough food for everyone on the planet. That “Food is like money; just because some people have none doesn’t mean that there isn’t enough of it – it’s just unevenly spread.” And Hunger in America (2013) says there’s enough food to feed every man, woman and child here in our country as well, but we waste roughly 70 Billion pounds of edible food each year.  The loss is mainly in fresh produce, meats, bread and dairy products that are tossed out by retailers, restaurants and cafeterias, but the waste actually begins right from the start of food production.

A major point in the US Department of Agriculture’s definition of Food Security is “Access by all people, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life…”  Our most reliable sources say we do, in fact, have enough food for all. But where is it?

The honest answer is; tons of it is going into landfills.  Yet, organizations such as Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest collect then donate thousands of pounds of perishables to food pantries, banks and soup kitchens, including our own, Yad Ezra. And Feeding America is investing in a new program that will ensure produce left in or on the ground, or still on the tree, find their way inside.

The Good Samaritan Act encourages restaurants, cafeterias, caterers and anyone else coming up with healthy left-overs to donate rather than toss, and provides reasonable liability protection to cover their donations.  And tax credits are also available to those who will join this endeavor.

Keeping America’s food out of our landfills and onto our tables takes careful planning and personal involvement. It’s not up to large corporations alone.  Individual consumers can donate from their gardens and green houses, ask about the destiny of left-overs at the next food event they attend or call their favorite grocer or restaurant and ask what they do with overages. Raising awareness and providing solutions is the best way to curb food waste.

Years ago one of my young daughters wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies but we had little money. Her dad had just joined the military and we were on a very strict budget. She wondered if the real problem was that the store was out of chocolate chips! Long story short…We gathered pop cans and went to the store. Yep! There were chocolate chips!  And so next time we’ll look at…Who needs food and can they get it with dignity?  Even something a little extra nice? After all, the food is there!