It’s the Night After Christmas and Someone is Hungry

By Paul van der Werf @allfoodisfood

If you can get past the clutter you can find the beauty of this time of the year. Foisted upon us now, presumably to distract us from the impending doom of winter, the cacophony of Christmas is ubiquitous. Happy, bright faces are everywhere. The same endless loop of Christmas carols wafts through you, with North Korean enthusiasm, until they become nothing more than undulating white noise and unfortunate ear candy canes.

This time of the year reminds us of how much many of us have and the obverse, sadly equilibrating, paucity of others. It is the black and white Christmas tales of movies past, the ecstasy of delight as children open gifts around the blazing fireplace to the sad man trudging infinitely through the snow, going nowhere. There is something in those tales, even if it is just saccharine redemption, that tries to bring the joy and sadness together.

There is a goodness in people’s hearts that extends beyond their own families to the larger world family. I see it in the bell ringers with their kettles at the mall to Christmas meals served to whoever wants them by strangers happy to have enough that they can give some back. For one day people with plenty work to make those with less, whole.

Food is a big part of every celebration whether it is Christmas now, Eid, Chanukah. It is what binds us together as people. Eating is a simple biological necessity that transcends poverty and wealth and creates galvanizing bonds. The literal breaking of (clearly unsliced) bread is how we like to describe it. Can we find a way to extend the goodness in people’s hearts the day after Christmas?

It is food and its access that sets us apart as a society. When people are in the position and have to make existential choices between buying food or shelter or heat we know we are not where we need to be. Solutions to the complexities of poverty can be hard to come by.

On the food front there are some potentially easy and game changing wins that put money in people’s pockets and food in other people’s stomachs. Without trying to be overly dramatic there is an epidemic of wasting food in this country (and most other developed countries by the way). Every week the average Canadian household throws out 5 pounds of food that could have been eaten at one point. This is worth $12 or about $600 per year. On top of that these same households throw out another 3 pounds of unavoidable food waste such as bones, coffee grounds and egg shells. These estimates don’t even start to count things like food waste that occur at restaurants and grocery stores.

There are clearly enough food resources available for all. We don’t do a great job at its equitable distribution. It begs the simple question though. If you threw out less food would you contribute some of your savings to those who do not have enough food? If you reduced your household’s food waste by just ½ would you donate $100 to an agency that works to solve food security issues? A bit of dream maybe but it is not asking for anything more but just sharing the reclaimed value of what is currently being thrown away.

The path to reducing the amount of food that becomes waste are pretty simple and involve improving food literacy. Some simple tips include:

  • Carefully plan ahead before grocery shopping so that you buy what you need
  • If you can buy every couple of days rather than just once a week
  • Understand that “Best Before” does not mean “Worst After” and our vision and sense of smell are our best tools
  • Plan how much you are going to make before you start so make best use of your ingredients
  • Plan for leftovers ahead of time and whether to freeze them for another day or eat them later in the week

Could this be the makings of an original New Year’s resolution?