Super-Size That, Would You Please?

A buddy of mine cleaned his refrigerator the other day.   The cabbage roll casserole told us it was expired, and made it painfully obvious for us when we lifted the lid.  I make it a point to check the expiry dates on the things that have been keeping residence at my place for a while.  Some things are good after their calculated date of expiry, some are not.   Two months is too much to ask any casserole, it seems.

When I worked in the food industry as a kid I always found it to be such a waste when we had to throw out batches of perishable foods that had been prepared for sale and went unused.  Once in a while it was ice cream expiring that night.  The boss was pretty reasonable about which garbage can the ice cream landed in;  the one at work or the one at my place.  Spoilage is a part of the expenses that go into running a business like that, but a lot of times it’s perfectly fine food that can still live on a few more days; you just can’t sell it to the public.

When I stop to consider how much good food is getting tossed away in the town I live in, I shake my head.  Then I remember that I live in one of a thousand towns just like mine.  Across the city are numerous grocery stores that, under orders from Health and Welfare Canada, are required to dispose of any food materials which have gone beyond what the agency deems as their ‘expiry date.’  If you buy chicken legs from the store, however,  you know they will be good for a couple of days beyond the ‘best before’ date emblazoned on the package.

Like a of lot people out there I make a weekly excursion to my local grocery store to get the food I’m going to need for the week.  Sometimes I’ll pop back into the store during the week to get some extras that I wind up needing, and more often then not it seems like the lettuce I picked up three days ago is the same lettuce still sitting in the produce isle’s crisper.

I’ve bought meat many times that was dated to ‘expire’ the day after I bought it.  The funny thing about meat is that it starts decomposing the instant the animal it came from is killed.  Refrigeration merely reduces the decomposition rate, but it’s still rotting away in it’s pretty, little package.  People don’t want to think about that but it’s true; if I wind up eating a chicken breast that ‘expired’ a couple of days ago, more often then not it’s good to go, you can tell by the smell.

Ten years ago the United Nations announced more food will exist in the future than will be needed  globally.  Small comfort when you realize how many malnourished school children exist, and how many soup kitchens and food co-ops are in still demand right now.   According to legend, there has been at least one individual from the past that had the ability to conjure food from nothingness, unfortunately the rest of us don’t have the ability.

Canada has the most stable food industry on the planet; having the stockpiles needed to feed the population is not the issue, distribution is.  Most of us are not in a position to require assistance so to most of us hunger is not a personal issue.   Malnutrition is directly linked to low income; a demographic still growing because of the economic collapse of 2008.  Poverty is what it’s always been about, the problem is there’s more in this ‘silent minority’ then ever before; society is barely managing to cope as it is.

Aliens are not likely to be appearing any time soon to save the world; we have to do it ourselves.  I see no reason why volunteer kitchens and food co-ops should not be able to receive expired goods from grocery stores.  I see no reason why restaurants can’t donate prepared vegetation-only products after every evening; better to eat rabbit food then no food.  The people that wind up cooking the donations will know if it’s good or spoiled, no matter where it came from.

If the laws permitted restaurants and grocers to surrender tax-deductible expired food to these organizations there would be no reason anyone’s insurance liability should be effected;  the grocer is still disposing of ‘bad’ food, and not even the fanciest restaurant in town can ever be guaranteed safe food no matter the source anyway.  Business, of course, should be able to exploit this for their purely capitalistic needs; tax breaks, public relations, and advertising.

Of course, existing governance would never allow that sort of thing to ever happen, lobbyists ensure the Status Quo.  If society treated hunger like the disease it is then it would make sense to do everything  it must do to eliminate it completely, and we don’t.  We can re-imagine a means to make better use of our existing resources.

Helping single parents keep groceries in the kitchen through food banks can help them weather out whatever else comes their way.  To reduce overall health cost burdens for the future, public schools could always be mandated to ensure all children eat every day.  Well fed children learn better and are healthier.

What we need to do is see if there are effective ways to get these food products directly from the source to food banks, volunteer kitchens and schools.  If food distributors sold in bulk to government, considerable overhead reductions to the various agencies and organizations responsible for providing assistance to our community could be realized.

Nutrition is the basic foundation for every person to excel in many facets of their lives.  Keeping our race fed is perhaps the most basic ‘system’ that needs to be absolute in effectiveness.  We are not even close to that, yet.  It’s time we think globally, and act locally.  We need solutions that are way out of the box, solutions based on a simple principle:  No one alive can go hungry, no matter what.

The System needs an upgrade.

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