Around the globe: Global food wastage, why normalized wastage is the easiest to overlook and most difficult to tackle.

World Environment Day (WED) is marked every year under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). WED celebrations began in 1972 and have grown to become one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. The 2013 theme for the event is Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint. And Mongolia has been selected as the host country for the 5th June 2013 event.

Cautious not to sacrifice the developed nations for their hard and smart work – that has earned them the plenty in terms of food and other consumables – allow me to share a personal experience with you.

Since I moved to the US from Kenya about two years ago, I have gradually grown to love their cuisine. One of my favourites is Jimmy John’s ‘Big John’. On average, I eat it about twice every week because of my awareness of the place of beef production in the Climate Change problem.

However, when the “Think. Eat. Save. Reduce your Foodprint” campaign was launched I decided to be a bit critical of my favourite dish. So I visited Jimmy John’s and placed an order. Then stood there to observe how ‘Big John’ is prepared. I realized the French bread after being slit open, had one side of it cleared of the soft parts on the inside until only the hard crest was left. This process as I later learnt was meant to create room for the stuff that the sandwich gets stuffed with. The soft “insides” were thrown into a trashcan conveniently set below the preparation table. When I probed one of the workers a little, I got a response to the effect that those were waste and would form part of the City’s general waste load.

Well, I doubt if I would be wrong to assume that the average American may likely not recognize the food wastage occurring during the preparation of ‘Big John’ because such food wastage has been normalized here to the extent that it is unperceivable. It has become the new normal. And one may even be accused of being backward if they insist that such wastage be addressed and stopped at best.

I agree that on its own such wastage may have negligible impact. But when we look at the cumulative effect and extrapolate it to a global scale and then bring in the question of the growing human population and increasing inequality, then the impact begins to be perceivable and becomes significantly big.

That is why I believe whereas it is important to look at the larger picture when we talk about addressing global food wastage, the most important area that we also need to look at and that keeps being forgotten is the smaller picture that is more close to most people’s heart, which has the greatest chance of causing a ripple effect. As UNEP/FAO put it, simple actions by consumers and food retailers can dramatically cut the 1.3 billion tonnes of food lost or wasted each year and help shape a sustainable future.

I hope this simple act and words reach the proprietor of Jimmy John’s so that he/she may talk his/her workers into stopping food wastage. They can either ensure the soft “insides” are used to feed other animals or better still they can manually apply pressure on the soft “insides” by pressing them so that space is created while food is saved.

Until next week, stay eco-conscious!

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16 thoughts on “Around the globe: Global food wastage, why normalized wastage is the easiest to overlook and most difficult to tackle.

  1. In a world with shrinking food production and expanding human population I think it’s vital that we check on food wastages.I’m staying eco-conscious.

  2. Good job Jeremiah
    Since your nice idea has not yet reached the management of JimmyJones,you can stop buying number 2 sandwich which in effect will reduce wastage caused by processing your order……

    • Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. Nice suggestion. However, your suggestion can only have significant impact if other consumers join me in a boycott. At this point I don’t think it’s appropriate to go that way. According to me the first and most reasonable step should be to engage in a dialogue with the management of JimmyJohn’s with an aim of making them address the food wastage in their restaurants. If the dialogue fails then it would be reasonable to take other drastic measures such as calling for a mass boycott to pressurize them to pay attention and act on the food wastage problem. What do you think about that?

  3. Very informative article Asaka.Keep writing more of this stuff.You can add lather to the article by telling your non US readers what type of food Jimmy John’s ‘Big John’ really is.From the description I get one component of the cuisine is the french bread,what are some other ingredients?

    • Thanks Erico. I have taken note of your suggestion and will incorporate them in future articles. In a nutshell, Big John is a roast beef sandwich. Usually containing bread, slices of roasted beef, mayo, chopped lettuce and some cheese.

    • Haha.Apart from the wastage, Big John rocks! Hope the wastage issue is fixed by the time you try your taste buds on Big John. 🙂

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