Food Waste at It’s Finest

Mountains of ice cream in a dumpster outside of Harding's Market in St. Joseph, Michigan - Photo Credit to David Clayton, Facebook

Mountains of ice cream in a dumpster outside of Harding’s Market in St. Joseph, Michigan – Photo Credit to David Clayton, Facebook

On Monday, June 30th, the Southwest Michigan / Northern Indiana region suffered a major thunderstorm that knocked out power across several counties – power that is not likely to be restored in most areas until Saturday, July 5th.

The power outage is a pain in everyone’s ass. This week it’s impeded routine business and networks that we take for granted. But on an individual-household level, it’s also meant people going without hot showers and hot food. And after any amount of time – by now (Wednesday), certainly – it’s rendered most of what’s in people’s refrigerators inedible.

Food waste at it’s finest… The photo above was shared with me on Facebook. It was taken by an acquaintance (I don’t know the photographer personally but you know what they say about six degrees of separation? This acquaintance is probably more of a 2nd- or 3rd-degree separation in this small community). Think of all that went into producing this ice cream. Energy and fodder for feeding cows, time spent by and money paid to the farmers who raised the cows and produced the milk, and again time and wages of the processors who turned it into ice cream… wasted because of a storm that knocked our power out.

Obviously extreme weather events happen, and power is going to go out sometimes. And obviously, you have to factor existing infrastructure into the equation. Very few people are equipped to predict the severity of storms such as the one we witnessed late Monday evening / early Tuesday morning, and certainly these things come on quickly enough that you can’t always prepare for them in advance.

But in a roundabout (or maybe not so roundabout) way, you can consider the extreme storm on Monday a direct result of global warming. Climate change is giving us increasingly extreme weather: remember the Snowpocalypse/Snowmageddon that froze us all only a few months ago? How about that drought that destroyed local corn crops two summers ago?

The person who posted this photo of discarded ice cream at the St. Joseph Hardings is obviously saddened by all this wasted icy-creamy goodness, but now think of all the ADDITIONAL food going to waste – vegetables, meats, dairy, frozen and refrigerated – that are rotting in peoples’ fridges and freezers across Michiana due to the power outage. A power outage that is expected to last all week and across several counties. You begin to realize the enormity of the impact this storm and food waste will have on our community. It really is sad.

Food waste and climate change, people. We regularly waste upwards of 40% or more of the food we produce in this country (and not only because of extreme weather). And science has told us (for quite some time now, actually) that climate change is not a hoax (contrary to what your politicians will tell you).

Food policy. Climate science. These things matter.

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