Food Security: To thrive, we must first survive

Update: check out the very interesting comment below re: creeping charlie plant. I decided to google it, and ran into this: Not only is creeping charlie medicinal in a number of ways, but “invasiveness is frequently a sign of medical potential. Plants can sometimes overwhelm illness the way they overwhelm their environment.” Wow! (But I’m still digging it up. There’s just so damn much! However, I’m also going to try it as a tea.)

Okay, folks, here’s a problem we need to sink our teeth into. How to actually distribute food to where it’s needed nearby? Rather than send heads of lettuce 2000 miles to people who then throw it away . . . either in the store before it even gets to the shelf, or when the sell-date is done, or at home, where it rots in the back of the refrigerator.

Lots of folks here dumpster-dive “for a living.” And why not? Let’s demonetize, in every way possible.

Wednesday afternoon, we had six people weeding in our Green Acres Neighborhood Garden. Felt good, to have hands in the dirt while laughing with others.

Here’s the horrible stuff that had almost taken over the garden during the too-warm winter. Somebody said it’s called “Creeping Charlie”, and it creates a tight mat under it as it creeps. We’ve uprooted about half of it so far.

And here’s photos of the hugelculture bed we also created that afternoon.

I know, I know. It’s ugly! Looks like a grave! A neighbor’s tree dropped a big old rotten limb. So we drug it over to the GANG garden, put lots of other little sticks around it, dug up another bed that we were going to change anyway for dirt, and voila! This year, we’ll potatoes and sweet potatoes in this new bed. (Potatoes can grow anywhere, even in straw.)

Meanwhile, on the global scale for food security, perhaps the Obama-nominated soon-to-be head of the World Bank will make a difference, since his life has proved that he’s actually committed to helping the poorest of the poor get their survival needs met.

Thanks to

While Children Starve, Up to Half of the World’s Food Goes to Waste

March 26, 2012


While Children Starve, Up to Half of the World’s Food Goes to Waste
One third to one half of all food produced in the world goes to waste uneaten, according to data recently collected by the Natural Resources Defense Council and presented this month at the 2012 Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit. The NRDC plans to release a full report on food waste in April.

The NRDC’s agricultural experts aren’t the only ones sounding an alarm about the global problem of staggeringly excessive food waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American throws away 33 pounds of food each month — that’s nearly 400 pounds each year. Food waste makes up nearly 14% of American families’ trash. Americans toss more food in their garbage cans than plastic products. This waste includes both leftover cooked foods, and food that was purchased but allowed to spoil without being eaten. The foods most commonly discarded without ever being eaten include fresh produce, eggs and fish.

But households aren’t the only source of food waste: farmers, packaged food producers and retailers all waste edible food, too. Farmers may throw away excess produce that cannot be sold; food process may discard edible byproducts; grocery stores often reject or discard produce with minor defects. And at any point along the food supply chain, failure to deliver food promptly or store food properly may lead to spoilage.

Food Rots While Millions Go Hungry

Meanwhile, The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that 925 million people went undernourished in 2010 alone. And hunger is not a problem restricted to developing countries: last year, an estimated 1 in 4 American children lived in households where food was not always available, and 1 in 5 Americans sought food aid through the federal food stamp program.

Food Waste Harms the Environment and Contributes to Climate Change

Agriculture and food production are highly energy-intensive industries. Industrialized farms use petrochemicals to fertilize soil, and fossil fuels to power farm equipment. Transporting food from field to plate consumes even more energy. According to the a report issued by the UN FAO in November 2011, the food sector accounts for nearly 30 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Wasted food, essentially, is wasted energy.

And wasted water, too: the international Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that agriculture accounts for roughly 70 percent of human water consumption.

Beyond the substantial environmental impact of the wasted energy and water represented by wasted food, food waste contributes significantly to global climate change when it decomposes in landfills.

When left to decompose in natural conditions or in a compost pile, food waste naturally releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But under unnatural landfill conditions, in the absence of air, most food waste undergoes anaerobic decomposition, which results in the production of large amounts of methane gas instead. Though both carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change, EPA scientists estimate that methane gas is 20 times more efficient at trapping the sun’s heat than carbon dioxide — making excess methane much more dangerous to the climate than excess CO2.

Landfills are currently the third-largest source of methane in the United States, producing more of the dangerous greenhouse gas than coal mining or crude oil production. And much of the methane in landfills comes from decomposing food waste.

The good news is, there is a simple solution to this problem that almost every person who eats can easily participate in: waste less food.

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2 Responses to Food Security: To thrive, we must first survive

  1. Damon says:

    Mother nature brought you creeping charlie to balance your permaculture grounds. It is not horrible stuff. Food waste is not the issue. Food access is. Food waste does not destroy the environment, it helps my permaculture plot thrive. It would be wonderful if we grew 10x more food than we need, if big agra wasn’t the one doing the growing. If we grew more than we needed than the animal populations would return. The environmental destruction agency wants us to take the blame, which is true, we are to blame. We shouldn’t allow an inner circle of predatory individuals control over everything.

  2. Susan McElroy says:

    Ann, I’ve got lots of “charlie” and dead nettle this year in my garden, and my immediate instinct was to let it be. It is blooming now, in lovely dense mats, and those mats are covered with bees and pollinating insects. In this early stage of the garden, I let whatever blooms first stay there awhile. I think the critters need it.

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