By Ryan Lau | @agorisms
In the modern era, it is difficult to deny that Americans live in a culture of waste. In fact, people do not actually eat most of the food Americans grow. Out of all of the crops that American farmers produce, humans only use a mere 27% for their food. What’s more is the fact that of that 27%, Americans throw away 40% of it.
Wasted Food, but People Starving
So, running the numbers, what does that look like? Combining those two statistics gives a grand total of 16.2%. In other words, we have, without any technological improvements at all, the capability to feed a great deal of people – far more than we do today. Of course, we currently use the rest for bio-fuels such as ethanol, and for feed for farm animals, such as cattle. And, to recall, about 11%, or one ninth, we throw away.
It is inevitable that people will waste some food, and that we will give some of it to animals. Despite this, it also is evident that there are people starving and things society can do about it. As mentioned above, nearly 15% of Americans face a form of food insecurity. Though not all of those with food insecurity are starving, it frankly is trivial. A free society should not tolerate any levels of food insecurity, especially when a portion of those people are truly starving.
Though the sheer number of people starving is an abhorrent statistic, it is not one without a number of identifiable causes and solutions. One of the first, without a doubt, is eliminating waste. If Americans reduced their food waste by only 15%, there would be enough food saved to feed an additional 25 million people.
By splitting this in two, the food could feed 50 million people half of their daily nutritional needs. This would serve as a very useful supplement to those who cannot afford all of the food they need. In fact, it would be enough to give half of the daily food requirements to every American who struggles to put food on the table, plus an extra million. There does not have to be any number of people starving. Those with adequate (and 40% extra) need to be more conscientious.
15% is not a difficult figure to reach. For all of this talk about cutting wasteful spending, why not start in the most important place? Americans could spend 40% less on food, or even better, donate the 40% they aren’t going to eat to a food pantry. In either situation, with just 15% compliance, America could see massive reductions in, if not elimination of, hunger. It isn’t that hard. Someone’s health, or even someone’s life, may depend on it. Make the right decision, America.
The Great McMyth
The prevalence of fast food over supermarket food in lower income communities also perpetuates hunger. Fast food restaurants have a reputation for being cheap meal options, but in reality, this is only true when comparing it to other full service restaurants. In comparison to real food options, fast food is horribly expensive. A McDonald’s Dollar Menu, for example, claims to be a highly affordable way of eating. However, it actually offers nothing for more than 390 calories. So, to satsify the caloric needs of an adult, (2000 and 2500), one would need to spend $5 or $6 a day. This would also entail eating nothing but McDoubles, which obviously is not a healthy way to eat.
Does this sound cheap? Perhaps upon first look, sure, but not on further examination. A family of four would need to spend around $22 a day, or $660 a month, to eat absolutely nothing but the cheapest fast food option available. Multiplying this number by twelve leads to an annual food budget, at the absolute bare minimum (and likely much higher, with fast food choices only) of $7920. Yes, that’s right. A little bit under $8000 a year, which is almost a third of the federal poverty line ($25,100 for a family of four). Families living well below the poverty line may be surrendering half of their income to fast food.
A Better Way
Hope, though, is not lost, for supermarket foods are considerably more affordable, especially for the poor. Looking at some basic staple foods, it appears that each dollar can stretch to many more calories. At a local WalMart, a 16 ounce container of Jif brand peanut butter costs $2.50. That jar contains 14 servings of 190 calories each, for a total of 2,660. All natural, non-GMO wheat bread sells for $1.47 per loaf, and has 1,650 calories. The same store offers five pounds of whole wheat pasta for a mere $7.40. At 8,450 calories, this box, cooked alfredo-style with grated cheese and butter, which also are very cheap, speaking in terms of calorie per dollar, could feed the entire family for dinner for several nights.
Deserts, with One “S”
Though the double “s” counterpart is far more attractive, food deserts are sadly a major issue in America today. A food desert is an area in which people, usually low income, do not have access to affordable, healthy food. Specifically, it means that a large number of low income people live at least 1 mile from a grocery store or supermarket. In rural areas, the area expands to 10 miles.
Currently, 23.5% of Americans live in a food desert. Many of the poor do not have any means of getting beyond this radius to buy the right foods. Instead, they are nearly forced by situation to go to one of many available fast food options, which means that there are people starving that are going to be spending a lot more than they have in order to get back a lot less than they need.
Thankfully, things are looking up for those in food deserts in recent years. In Boston, for example, a food market bus is now serving healthy food to those in food deserts. Moreover, Geisinger, a private healthcare company, provides food to diabetics in food deserts, claiming that the proper food is a type of essential medicine for those with unstable blood sugar. Uber and Lyft also now provide more affordable ways of getting to grocery stores for those without a vehicle.
The Fight Begins with the Individual
However, despite recent improvements, the fight is not over until there are no more people starving. As with many critical issues, one person can truly make a difference.
By spreading this message, by aiding those in food deserts, by donating food, rather than wasting, each of us can make a noticeable change in the world. It’s time to do the right thing for those with little.
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