Food for Thought

Staff Writer: Claudia Miklosik

Your mom has likely scorned you for not finishing your food at one point or another. Maybe she mentioned the hungry people in third-world countries fragile from malnutrition. Her disapproval may have evoked a discreet eye-roll from you, but have you ever thought to think about how much food is wasted every day?

The amount of food senselessly wasted is mind-boggling once you notice. Then, it is impossible to ignore it. You can observe it at restaurants, in the cafeteria, or at home. You may call it human nature, selfishness, or both. For some reason, we have a tendency to take more than we need and to bite off more than we can chew.

By working at a burger restaurant the past two years, I have witnessed this phenomenon first hand. Does a side of ketchup sound like a lovely compliment to your French fries? Sure, but why are we compelled to stockpile enough for an entire sack of potatoes? Furthermore, I’ll gladly give you a couple extra sides of ranch. I will smile politely when I throw your trash away. The irritation is real, however, when I notice that your meal is half-eaten and your sauces unused. Sauces may be free, but they won’t make you any richer, folks.

Okay, okay – enough pettiness about condiments. It’s not about the condiments at all. What I desperately want to communicate is to take only as much as you need – of anything! This simple mantra has become all too difficult to follow in a society that is so abundant with resources. There really is little incentive to appreciate our resources and to make the most of them. That is, until, you become aware of the damage everyday wastefulness has on our planet.

America, for example, is estimated to have thrown away 40% of its food supply in 2012. Furthermore, the UN has said that the amount of food thrown away by rich countries is almost equal to the amount produced by sub-Saharan Africa.

It was not always like this. Pope Francis once said, “Our grandparents used to make a point of not throwing away leftover food. Consumerism has made us accustomed to wasting food daily and we are unable to see its real value.” The aforementioned eye-sore statistics have been rising from year to year, and only a shift in mindsets – maybe to those of our grandparents – can change their course.

Mindfulness when ordering food can be a big help. Ask yourself, how hungry are you? Is that third order of onion rings really going to be finished? So much money could be saved, and so many greenhouse gasses (like methane) could be spared if we became less wasteful with our food. Better yet, it feels great to be rid of the guilt associated with throwing away perfectly edible food.

One lodge in north Georgia’s Amicalola Falls, called Hike Inn, holds the reputation of being one of the least wasteful. Their facilities are solar-powered, the hot showers are limited to 5 minutes, and let’s just say their toilets do not require flushing. Call them hippies, but I believe a dose of this kind of living is what we all need.

The most easily-applied conservation technique practiced by the lodge was simply limiting how much food was thrown away. At the end of meals, visitors would pile their scraps high on a scale. The goal was a collective x-amount of ounces of waste, and it was met every time I was there. Better yet, the waste went to a compost pile, but that’s going the extra mile when baby steps is where we need to start as a society.

So next time your mom suggests you take only as much as you will eat, contemplate her suggestion. What may seem like nagging on the outside, is really something that can save our planet’s resources in the long run. In the end, and in the words of Paul Watson, “Social change comes through people.”


Are you gonna eat all that? Too many options can make you grab too many foods that you may not have room for.

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