April 05, 2018
"WASTED! The Story of Food Waste" gives a fascinating, easily digestible (ha!) overview of the world’s food problems. Narrated by Anthony Bourdain (one of the executive producers), the film opens with him admitting he doesn’t like the idea of being a public advocate, but his old-school’s chef’s training taught him to “use everything, waste nothing.”
What follows is a fast-paced documentary discussing the problem of food waste with world-renowned chefs and leaders, peppered with clever stop-animation graphs.
There's a lot to learn in this documentary. Mainly, food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills. Once there, it decomposes and releases methane—a form of climate pollution that’s up to 33 times more potent than carbon dioxide (some experts rate it even higher).
Pop Quiz: How long does it take a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill? “Wasted!” asked a bunch of people on the street and got answers ranging from a week, a month, 6 months. Incorrect! The actual time is 25 years!
You may not realize how much food you’re wasting, so here are some rather startling facts:
- 40% of food in America is wasted, and 90 percent of wasted food ends up in landfills.
- 90% of us throw food away too soon.
- Each of us tosses nearly 300 lbs. of food each year.
- The average American family spends $1,500 on food that ends up being wasted each year.
- The annual cost of food waste in the US is $1 trillion. Yep, you read that right. $1 TRILLION.
Happily, even though the film covers a serious problem, it is fun to watch and zips along, showing us some solutions already working worldwide, and in the US. Such as, the Yoplait Factory in Tennessee which converts its methane gas to energy that powers its plant; Green’s Edible Schoolyard, where grade schoolers plant, harvest, and eat their own fruit and vegetables, and a store called Daily Table (started by a former CEO of Trader Joe’s) which takes discarded goods from wholesalers and grocery stores and sells it at a lower price so that families can buy healthy food rather than fast food.
Tristram Stuart, an engaging, handsome fellow with a charming British accent and sense of humor is a key expert and activist in the movement. He had an idea of using the copious amounts of leftover bread (ends and crusts) to make a beverage the British love: Toast Ale. Now, this idea is being adopted by other countries – brilliant.
The good news is there are lots of simple things we can each do to make a difference on daily basis:
- Plan meals in advance and Make a Shopping List
- Use more of the food you buy, and Use Leftovers
- Store Food Properly, and Use Your Freezer
- Buy “funny/ugly” produce – imperfect fruits and vegetables can be just as tasty as their perfect “display-ready” cousins
- Learn when food goes bad
If, like me, you’re confused with the “sell by”, “best by” or “use by” dates on food, “Wasted!” reveals that most of these aren’t really about the safety of food. “Best by” and “Use by” are manufacturer’s best estimate of when the product is at its peak quality. “Sell by” dates are meant for store personnel as a reminder to rotate product; most of the food will still be good past that date. A good test is always the “smell test”. You know when milk’s gone bad, so trust your senses on other food as well.
Bourdain sums up the film with his usual curmudgeonly, snarky attitude commenting “I’m a terrible person. But you should listen to me anyway.”
To learn more about how you can take action check out these resources:
- www.SavetheFood.com - A bounty of tips for storing, cooking with food scraps, freezing, and shopping guidelines; also a comprehensive list on how to store specific food products for optimal use and tips on what to do when something is past its prime, instead of just tossing it.
- https://www.ted.com/talks/tristram_stuart_the_global_food_waste_scandal#t-31817 - Tristram Stuart’s TED Talk
"WASTED! The Story of Food Waste": 1 hour 25 minutes - available on Amazon, iTunes, Xfinity, Google Play, Vimeo and other providers.