I was a ” Pious Itinerant” for much of the 1960s, A Folkie ( not a hippie), and definitely a member of a part of the counterculture. My friends and I lived an extremely frugal lifestyle through necessity. We were dirt poor.
Quartered on the backside of Boston’s Beacon Hill – what some better-heeled Bostonians termed a “working class ghetto” – we were not far from Boston’s famed Haymarket. In the Haymarket, pushcart vendors and small subterranean shops were filled with fresh produce and goods. Here shopping opportunities unfound in modern supermarkets allowed you to haggle over the price of a dozen onions or a fresh broccoli head.
Every evening as the carts and shops closed, you could close fantastic deals for great food, otherwise going into the trash. Ugly fruits and vegetables that were less than perfect and food that would not be fresh enough for another day were available cheap or for free. For such poor people, we ate well every evening.
I have no itch to return to those days of scavenging, doing without, or lacking the care of a dentist, but recalling how we lived, I know that the massive amount of tossed food was the beginning of the significant food waste problem we face today.
From where I sit, I can see my garden at this time of year full of kale, lettuce, mustard greens, and herbs. Soon there will be squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and other produce. I’ll be pulling garlic, onions and harvesting grapes and apples late in the season. The last things out of the garden will be the late-season kales and the Brussels sprouts. All this requires a plan so as little as possible goes to waste, and the little waste gets composted to return nutrients to the garden. From seed to food to compost, the garden is a wheel that rotates through the seasons, nurturing itself under our guidance.
Despite ugly food programs ( that attempt to divert good food that is cosmetically flawed) and food bank programs that collect surplus or soon-to-be-wasted food from markets, our society has no comprehensive plans to address the enormous food waste.
It’s disconcerting that food insecurity is a significant problem in a world that produces so much that we can casually waste it and send it to landfills.
At the end of this post, I will end with a popular saying from when I was a Pius Itinerant: If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
You may not be able to affect a national policy immediately or directly, but you can start with your behavior at home. Start by reducing food waste in your home; if you have a garden, find a corner for vegetative compost, join an ugly foods program, and get on the case of the big box market about their waste and recycling programs.
Be noisy. Corporations don’t like negative publicity.