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Food & Hunger

Farm to garbage to table—why world leaders ate food waste

Flickr: Kelly Teague

Food is often the topic of interest on many people’s “plates.” But this is especially true this past weekend as the Pope turned down Congress’ invitation to a fancy feast and instead dined with homeless in Washington D.C., (after being the first Pope in history to address a joint session of Congress, as my colleague Nicki points out in this article).

What’s even more unprecedented than Pope Francis breaking bread with disadvantaged citizens in Washington DC is two chefs serving food waste to over thirty world leaders at the UN SDG Summit lunch on Sunday Sept. 27th.

Chef Dan Barber, the owner of New York’s famous restaurant Blue Hill--one of the first “farm to table” restaurants in New York city--and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy to the White House, Sam Kass, teamed up to serve an impressive menu all from food deemed by Americans to be “food waste.”

The lunch boasted a delicious menu of typically American cuisine. Burgers made from the vegetable pulp which would have otherwise been tossed from juicing sat on the plates of prominent world leaders. “Landfill salad” composed of bruised pears, apples, and lettuce made the cut. And to top off the meal, water from strained chickpeas was served as well.

While chefs are “tossing” salad, the United States tosses between 33 to 40 percent of food in the country. Food waste in the US translates to $165 billion (USD) in losses, piles up in landfills, and with reform on food aid, approximately 25 million more people could be fed according to a study from the National Resources Defense Council.

In addition, climate change is largely linked to food waste. 3.3 billion tons of carbon are released each year because of food waste. According to UN figures, 28 percent of produce grown on agricultural land is sent to landfills.

Personally, I think chefs and foodies alike are more saddened by the waste of, in my opinion, “perfectly good” food than the majority of the American population. Although who isn’t a foodie these day? I’d say my suspicions that even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is a foodie are not far off.

For world leaders like UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, and the president of France François Hollande, chefs Barber and Kass’s unique menu was the perfect gateway to addressing the mountainous problem of food waste, especially in the US.

So I challenge each of you to take on your own version of the UN SDG Summit lunch created from food waste, and throw your own #HungerFree dinner party cooked up from those barely bruised apples, oranges, lettuce, and bread you were thinking of tossing.

Don’t go crazy and get food poisoning or anything, but I ask you as global citizens to think about the food that is thrown away in the US each minute and take any small action to reduce food waste. Innovative chefs like Barber and Kass set a fantastic example and do not need to be the only ones starting movements to decrease food waste.


You can GO to TAKE ACTION NOW and SIGN UP to learn more on how to host a #HungerFree dinner party.