Food waste in recent years has been a topic of interest as it coincides with increasing rates of food insecurity. Did you know that roughly 40% of our food is being wasted? Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story sheds light into this rising issue. Grant Baldwin (director) and his wife (producer) Jenny Rustemeyer embark on a 6-month journey where their meals are to consist of only discarded food. For the majority of their challenge, they engaged in a gathering method called “dumpster diving,” where garbage disposals of supermarkets and other facilities are scavenged for anything edible. It sounds unappealing, but as soon as you see the abundance of food that they discovered, you might just want try it out for yourself. At rare occasions when they did purchase goods from grocery stores, they only purchased culled goods, which are those that have been removed from display for disposal.
The documentary highlights the selective processes that occur in farms, supermarkets, and households that lead for perfectly edible foods to be wasted. The root of the issue is the mindset that humans have in regards to aesthetics and abundance. In relation to food, we have a perception that what looks good is better and that we would rather have more and waste instead of barely getting by and having just enough.
Have you ever thought about how your large chain supermarkets keep their produce looking so perfect and uniform? On the farm level, produce goes through a sorting process where those that are imperfect, mostly for cosmetic are eliminated for sale as it does not meet retailer’s (supermarket) standards. Luckily, not all are wasted as these rejected products are either donated by farmers to local food banks or are used for composting. Once the produce is transported from the farms to the stores, the produce once again goes through an elimination process where those that don’t meet the cosmetic standards are disposed. Consumers tend to judge quality through appearance, and with supermarkets understanding the mentality of consumers, they appeal to their desires by only selling the perfect and ideal looking produce to drive sales and customer loyalty.
The most important concept from the film was the idea that American society does not see food waste as taboo. This was pointed out by Jonathan Bloom, one of the featured speakers in the documentary and author of American Wasteland, which I encourage all of you to read as it goes further into topics of food waste. He goes on to explain how wasting food is viewed as perfectly okay unlike littering or not recycling and explores a period when avoiding food waste was encouraged.
This 73-minute documentary film is a great introduction as it is packed with the general knowledge and perspectives on the topic of food waste. The visual accounts of farmers, supermarket employees, and individuals against food waste were certainly eye-opening. Most importantly, the journey that Grant and Jenny went through during the 6 months was mind-blowing. When you think of dumpster diving, you think of someone digging for food scraps and left-overs. However, that wasn’t the case here as they got a hold of quality foods that were discarded for outrageous reasons; they even found cases of chocolate bars that was nowhere near its expired or best by date and was not under the recalled list. They definitely did not go hungry during this process. Whether it’s because they got lucky, or they knew where to look definitely had a role in their success, but the real focus here is: why are tons of perfectly safe and edible foods going to waste, being landfill bound instead of being donated to the needy or utilized in better ways?