(THE NEWS/files)                                Chuck Griffith with the Friends In Need Food Bank during the B.C. Thanksgiving Food Drive.

(THE NEWS/files) Chuck Griffith with the Friends In Need Food Bank during the B.C. Thanksgiving Food Drive.

MacDuff’s Call: Obnoxious waste of perfectly good food

We have developed a relationship with food that is not sustainable.

The vast majority of us will have consumed more food over the holidays than we care to admit to, as overeating is a reality of the holidays.

That is evidenced in the stores after Christmas by their strategic placement of the exercise gear near the entrances and outfitting the Size 0 store mannequins with the latest stretch fabric that defies the laws of physics.

Marketers know that losing weight is consistently one of the Top 5 New Years’ resolutions and they are eager to take more of our money by promoting the latest exercise contraption, outfit, sneaker, or super food that will burn away the calories.

And all of this is driven by our intense relationship with food – a relationship we have to re-visit.

The aforementioned scenario is only available to those of us who are in an income bracket that affords a lifestyle where we can chose to over-indulge.

The latest poverty statistics for Canada has one out of seven people living in poverty and it can be assumed that these folks struggle to put food on the table throughout the year, so indulging in holiday extras is most likely an impossible feat.

Thank goodness we have the commitment and kindness of people who enable food banks to operate, such as our own Friends in Need Food Bank.

Friends in Need is a not-for-profit society that has been serving the communities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows for over 20 years. It presently provides over 600 hampers that supplement the daily food requirements of more than 3,600 residents each month.

This food is made available through corporate and public food donations, as well as financial donations that are used to purchase additional food for the hampers.

There are approximately 60 volunteers who collectively donate about 1,500 hours each month to ensure the food is distributed to those in need.

These volunteers and the amazing staff, led by executive director Mary Robson, achieve amazing feats during the holiday season, collecting food and funds to ensure families have enough food to enjoy the festivities alongside the rest of the community.

Friends in Need has recently embarked on implementing a fully functioning Perishable Food Recovery Program, which is designed to take advantage of viable, surplus perishable foods that are available within the food retail industry and get them to those who are relying on the food bank.

In Canada, 40 per cent of food ends up in the waste stream. Yet there is food that is fit for consumption, but not for sale that Food Banks B.C. has proven is usable to feed those in need. It is estimated that a third of all food worldwide ends up in the waste stream.

This obnoxious waste of perfectly good food is an insidious outcome of a much larger problem the world faces within industrialized agriculture and our food distribution systems as a whole. How many of us do the usual walk through the grocery store and buy something perishable on a just-in-case basis, only to throw it out a week later?

Visualize all of the wasted components that went into producing that item from its root form through to the point at which it was placed in your shopping cart: water, nutrients, transportation costs and the human resources involved.

You may well say that you paid for it and it comes down to your relationship with your wallet and ability to pay, but the outcome of that waste is collectively having a negative impact on the world’s ability to ensure there is an equitable distribution of available food.

We have developed a relationship with food that is not sustainable and it is contributing to taking needed food away from under developed countries.

As the consumers who drive Third World and emerging economies, the more we demand, the more they have to provide. Add in the fact that we want the produce that we eventually throw away to be picture perfect, which forces farmers to lose up to 40 per cent of their crops up front, as it is rejected by the multi-nationals, and we have contributed to food being unavailable to the very people who produce it, due to the pressure of meeting the needs of developed countries.

There is enough food produced worldwide to ensure every person on the planet could consume 2,800 calories a day. Yet, while we send perfectly good food to the landfill, there are millions of people starving worldwide.

Organizations, such as Friends in Need, are trying to take a negative and turn it into a positive. But in the long run, if we truly want to end hunger, we need to change our attitude towards food and start respecting what it takes to produce what we consume.

As no amount of exercise in the New Year is going to balance the scales away from the injustice that exists knowing that a farmer in a Third World country cannot feed the people of his or her village, because they have to send us enough food to throw away.

Cheryl Ashlie is a former Maple Ridge school trustee, city councillor, constituency assistant and current

citizen of the year.