VIRGINIA BEACH — It may seem impossible to believe but it’s true: Every year nearly one-third of the food produced for human consumption goes to waste.
That’s some 1.3 million tons of food that is thrown into landfills, plowed back under, or used as food for pigs.
To add a little more perspective to those figures, not only is that food lost and never eaten — even by those who so badly need it — but all of the time and effort and resources that went in to the production of that food is wasted.
The water… the fuels or raw materials… the land that gave up its minerals for the food growth… and the man-hours spent was used to the benefit of no one.
On May 16, Lynnhaven River NOW and Buy Fresh, Buy Local Hampton Roads will co-host a viewing of a documentary “Wasted: The Story of Food Waste,” which delves into the topic of food waste and includes famous chef Anthony Bourdain as the executive producer.
The film will be followed by a panel discussion including locals Tim Cole of the Virginia Beach Public Schools; restaurateur Laura Habr (Croc’s 19th St. Bistro); and Renee Figurelle, chief operations officer of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.
“It’s important for decision-makers to understand how food waste impacts the entire population, not just the people that we serve,” Figurelle said.
Last year the Foodbank distributed 18.6 million pounds of food she said, but still had food stuffs that they couldn’t use or use in time — which was given to area pig farmers.
The Foodbank is a food distributor, meaning it receives donations from grocery sellers such as Food Lion, Walmart and Sam’s Club, and in turn distributes those items to its 265 partner agencies — nonprofits whose mission is to feed people.
The criminality of food waste
The documentary aims to change the way people buy, cook, recycle, and eat food. It seeks to expose the criminality of food waste and how it’s directly contributing to climate change, as well as showing how everyone can make small changes that can help solve one of the greatest problems of the 21st Century.
“It’s not just about wasting food, but also about land and water resources,” said Karen Forget, executive director of Lynnhaven River NOW. “Including things like energy used to package and transport. It’s wasteful on many levels.”
She said while much of the concern about food waste centers — rightfully so — on the fact that many people across the world don’t have enough to eat while perfectly good food is being thrown into landfills, there’s also an environmental impact involving the use of limited fresh water supplies used in growing food, as well as the application of pesticides and herbicides.
Figurelle said in addition to working with area grocers to get foods that are nearly outdated or are damaged and not fit to sell, they work with area farmers to get produce that might not look nice enough to sell, before it gets plowed back under.
“A lot of people don’t realize that often the sell-by dates on food isn’t an expiration date, but a recommended date referring to when the food is at its best,” she said. “For example, milk is usually good for seven-ish days from that date.”
Wednesday’s event will be at the Brock Environmental Center and will begin at 6:30 p.m.