Category Archives: Food

Food Waste: The Worst is yet to Come


Although we know that Canadians are offenders too, Chris and I could not fail to notice on our trip through the heartland of the country on our way to Arizona, how Americans waste food. We have noticed that for years and many people talk about it. Yet this wastage is getting worse, not better.

As Vaclav Smil noted in his book Numbers Don’t Lie,

the United States’ per capita food waste increased by 50% between 1974 and 2005 and that problem has gotten worse since then.” He also calculated (he loves numbers remember) that this wasted food in America was enough to provide adequate nutrition to about 230 million people which is slightly more than the entire population of Brazil, the world’s sixth largest country!

Even as Americans waste food at such a horrific pace they still eat too much.  So do wel. I acknowledge my own sins here. We have also noticed that on our journey. We have never asked for so many doggy bags nor shared more meals than we did on this trip. And sad to say, we still eat far too much too. As Smil said,

“Yet even as they waste food, Americans are still eating far more of it than is good for them. The prevalence of obesity—defined as a body mass index of 30 or greater—more than doubled between 1962 and 2010 rising from 13.4 percent among adults over age 20…among adults, 74% of males and 64% of females  have an excessively high weight. Most worrisomely, as obesity is usually a lifelong condition, that proportion is now above 50 percent for children above the age of six as well.”


Food loss causes other problems too. For example, it involves a significant waste of labour and energy consumption. We are paying a big price to put food in the landfill or composters.  Indirectly, as a result too much plastic is produced for food containers and even inputs into food production. Extra food production leads to harming the environment by producing too much inputs such as fertilizers. The environmental effects of food wastage, including effects on climate change, water wastage, soil erosion, and unnecessary contamination of rivers and lakes are enormous.

Rich countries such as Canada and the United States, and many others should do much better. We should produce less food and consume it with a lot less wastage. Instead of looking for ways to produce more, we should be looking for ways to consume more smartly waste less. According to the UK Waste and Resources Action Program, a dollar invested in food waste prevention has a 14-fold return in associated benefits.


Can’t we use the money?



Wasting Food is a Sin


Driving through the United States on the way to Arizona where we hoped to stay for the winter, we were often reminded about how much Americans waste. In particular, they waste a lot of food.  In Texas, we saw signs advertising 72 of steaks?  How many people ate that? Portions in almost all restaurants are absurdly large.  A half-pound burger is standard fare. Does that make sense?

Wasting food is a sin. In a world with such immense poverty and undernourishment to waste food is intolerable. Yet—we tolerate it—all the time!

This is an issue that deeply concerns Vaclav Smil a famous University of Manitoba Professor. Chris and I had the pleasure of hearing him speak live on the subject. Part of Smil’s thesis is found in the title to his recent book Numbers Don’t Lie. And they don’t. Sometimes it is not easy to interpret them correctly, but numbers are important. Life cannot be reduced to numbers, but life should not ignore numbers. This is what Smil wrote ,

“The world is wasting food on a scale that must be described as excessive, inexcusable, and, given all of our other concerns about the state of the global environment and quality of human life, outright incomprehensible.


According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization the world loses (wastes) 40-50% of its root crops, fruits, and vegetables. Let that sink in please. Nearly half of all root crops, fruits and vegetables are wasted!

Of course, that is not all the food that is wasted. We also waste, according to the UN 35% of our fish, 30% of our cereal crops, and 20% of our oilseeds, meat, and dairy products. As Smil pointed out, “This means that, globally at least one-third of all harvest food is wasted.

That is done while billions of people go hungry each day! And our political leaders don’t want to talk about this. Many of them, especially here in the United States, would rather talk about gendered bathrooms!

I was reading Smil’s  book while I was in the USA and Smil is hard on them in his criticism. But Canada is very bad too. If I recall correctly, he told us at his lecture in Canada that we Canadians waste about 25% of our food. But as Smil said in his book, “Not surprisingly the United States is a leading offender.” In the US about 40% goes to waste.


Breakfast with Stef


Stef and his friend Charli. This photo has nothing to do with the post below.

I had an interesting experience when I woke up our first morning in Sooke B.C. where we stayed for 5 days—I had breakfast with my son Stef.   Get this, for breakfast Stef ate a Long John pastry, very gooey, a heated up wiener left over from last night, and Ketchup chips! About as nutritious as last week’s laundry.

Slow Food at the Handlebar Pub and Bar.



Maybe the ambience is a little less than stellar, but the Handlebar Pub and Grille is still a great hamburger joint. Sometimes the music is excellent too.


We enjoyed a very convivial  dinner here with friends Don and Marlene Hoeppner. The restaurant is popular so we had to wait about half an hour to get inside. In the meantime we sampled their beer and enjoyed the sunset in the background. Remember I am an inspector of sunsets. The Handlebar is  our favorite restaurant in the Phoenix/Mesa area. My friend Dave Driedger says they make the best burgers in the world. No doubt that is an exaggeration, but I think they are pretty good. Interestingly, for a burger joint, the Handlebar does not offer fries Sometines the music is pretty good too. . Slowfood  with a convivial evening with friends makes for some very good times.