Even though I hate it, the truth is I throw food away. Usually it's something that has gone bad in my fridge or is suspect enough that I don't feel comfortable eating it. My city collects food scraps for compost now, so there's a small bit of relief that the food is going towards something good, but really, if I were to take that up in anyway as a justification, I would be fooling myself.
Whenever I toss away food, I think about the people, some only just outside my front door, that are hungry right now. Of course I do this. Anyone who lives in an area with a visible homeless population would. And then there are all those pictures and statistics of world hunger and disasters. Who hasn't grown up with the message to clean your plate because there are children starving somewhere?
I wonder, too, about the karma of it, and if there will be a time in my life when I'll be hungry and without access to food (whisper: when I'm starving.) I'll look back to this moment and remember when I could let food rot in my refrigerator. I wonder now how that would feel.
I think about the waste of it, all the energy and effort and resources that go into growing and shipping this food. I think about the lost potential of something delicious to eat and share. I think about how privileged I am to have such abundance that, while I feel sad and guilty for tossing food, I don't feel it, really feel it in my body, as the tragedy that it is. The fact that there has always been plenty more where that came from has taken the edge off.
Here are a few things I've been doing lately to avoid throwing away food:
- I try to shop smarter and more frequently. Instead of picking up something 'just in case', I only buy it if I know I need it. And I try to shop for produce twice a week, to be sure everything is fresh.
- If I know I'm not going to have time to cook something, I give it away to one of my neighbors. I'm lucky to have several people in my apartment building who enjoy cooking and appreciate the occasional bunch of kale or handful of lemons.
- I make up a pot of soup, or a veg stock, or whatever makes sense with what's available. Sometimes I freeze this and sometimes it's a good excuse to have some friends over for a casual meal.
And occasionally I mess up and forget about that bag of lettuce in the back of the crisper, now turned to a slimy mess. Guilt is my natural response but it's one to be cautious about. While it can sometimes be a good motivator, guilt also can be corrosive and lead to a kind of a selfish, preoccupied suffering. It's sticky and 'all about me', stealing energy and distracting from what's really important. So best to move on and try to do better the next time.
What is your experience of tossing food? What, if anything, do you do to avoid it?
Related: Weekend Meditation: Enough
(Image: Dana Velden)