Have you ever eaten more than you needed because you didn’t want the food to go to waste? I know I’ve struggled with that in the past, and it can be all too easy to use this as a way of justifying overeating.
I was thinking about this particularly last Friday, when I attended an event called Feeding the 5000 here in Portland. It was an event designed to educate people about how much food goes waste in our country. The numbers are staggering: 40% of food produced in the U.S. goes to waste, which represents $161 billion annually. And not only is this wasteful, but it can be harmful, since food going into landfills releases harmful greenhouse gases.
This does not, however, mean that the best thing to do is eat everything in front of us. I got a pamphlet showing a hierarchy of ways to reduce food waste, with the best option being to reduce the amount of unwanted food. This included the suggestion to buy and cook only what you need.
This is where mindful eating comes into play. Imagine if most of the time you only made and ate as much as you needed. Think of how that would feel physically, but also financially. To me, this seems like a far better approach than simply eating what I don’t need, and if I use some of that extra money to give to a food pantry, I’m doing far more to help starving children than I would be by forcing myself to overeat, or to eat food I really don’t like.
We will always have some food waste, but we can also be creative at finding other ways to use it, like feeding animals or composting. We can also try to put policies in place to change how things are labeled, support more selling of imperfect produce, encourage more oversight of food waste, and provide better access and support for large-scale composting. (Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree has done a lot in this area with the Food Recovery Act.)
After all, in this one event, the organization found enough food to feed 5,000 people, food that would otherwise have gone to waste. Plus, the soup was delicious. Just imagine if we could translate that into something that happened daily.
So if you’re trying to be more mindful about your eating and food choices, I invite you to consider the aspect of reducing food waste. It might help you, and all of us, find a better balance.