GOOD

One Man’s Plan to End World Hunger By Getting Us to Eat Expired Food

A little common sense about expiration dates will change the world. #globalgoals

This fall, the United Nations is preparing to launch its 17 Sustainable Development Goals—an extraordinary action plan to solve the world’s biggest problems by 2030. Over the coming months, we’ll be connecting with The Local Globalists: 17 nonprofit founders, entrepreneurs, and social innovators who are working every day, wherever they are, to turn one of the U.N.’s #globalgoals into reality.


Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

It’s an adage that’s been heard at frugal family dinner tables for ages: “Finish your food; there are starving children in Africa.” It’s also an adage that makes British chef and food waste activist Adam Smith cringe.

It’s not that Smith doesn’t agree that the simultaneous problems of food waste—1.3 billion metric tons of edible food being tossed per year, to be exact—and widespread hunger are both nonsensical and staggering. Rather, he disagrees with the idea that solution lies with the individual diners themselves.

And while he may share a name with the father of neoliberal market economics, don’t let that throw you. When it comes to the market and its ability to determine what’s safe to eat, the current system is irreconcilably broken, Smith says. He created his Real Junk Food Project to show there’s another way.

“A lot of things that apply in [developing] countries and war-torn places when it comes to food are happening in the western world right one our doorstep,” Smith said. “There are people suffering from a lack of access to food while we experience an overabundance of food in exactly the same time and place. So we decided to tackle these problems and break down the social stigma about how we manage food.”

Smith is out to prove a theory as much as he is out to feed people: The food going to waste on a massive scale every day is perfectly fit for human consumption, as long as you use common sense. He started in 2013 in his hometown of Armley, Leeds, where he opened the first Real Junk Food Project cafe, preparing food with ingredients intercepted from restaurants, rubbish bins, supermarkets, farmers, and wholesale retailers.

To date, RJFP cafes all over the world—from Berlin to Cape Town to Israel—have fed 60,000 people. While he “gives away” meals on a pay-what-you-feel basis (which allows him to skirt legislation that forbids the selling of food that’s passed its use-by date), Smith insists that the RJFP is a business, not a charity. That’s an important distinction, he notes, given how society thinks about discarded food.

“When food is going to waste, we automatically say, ‘Let’s take it to the homeless shelter or give it to somebody who is poor,’ but what’s happened is that so much food is being wasted that those who are in need are eating better than those who can afford it,” Smith explains. “In order to prove to the government that this food is fit for consumption, we have to allow everyone to eat it, and not just target that needy demographic.”

Smith says his goal is "to put ourselves out of business as soon as possible, we don't want to exist and shouldn't need to." To do that, RJFP will need to get policy makers and consumers to start to take notice of what food companies are getting away with when it comes to proliferating consumers’ fear of spoiled food, and then bearing no consequences when they waste huge amounts of blemished but edible food. This comes at a time when the European Parliament, following in France’s footsteps, is considering passing an amendment requiring supermarkets to distribute their unsold products to NGOs.

Smith blames the confusing matrix of dates printed on food as a large part of the problem. In the U.K., only high risk foods like meat, dairy, and shellfish legally require “Use By” dates. However, almost all food—packaged, fermented, preserved—has “Sell By,” “Display By,” or “Best Before” dates, which Smith says are unnecessary, work to confuse the consumer, and ultimately bolster the food companies’ bottom line.

“Dates have replaced common sense—we’ve seen products like salt and vinegar in the cafe that have use-by dates on them,” Smith says. “There’s a psychology behind the power of expiration dates and they’re used as a tool to manipulate people to consume products which they don't need to buy.”

It’s ironic that in 2015, Smith’s vision for the future is, in many ways, a world that used to exist. A time when our grandparents would’ve laughed at the idea of an individually plastic-wrapped banana or apple and wouldn't have dreamed of throwing out a basket of fruit thanks to a lone moldy strawberry. He desperately wants to return to a time when, rather than “fearing food and producing things in order for them to be wasted,” we are more connected to where our food comes from and intuitively know how to prepare it properly.

However, as much as Smith has made global food waste his own problem, he cautions against individuals becoming too militant or obsessed with minimizing their own personal waste output. He hopes for a consciousness shift in which consumers start thinking of food in terms of energy—that is, the resources required to grow food, package it, transport it and then unnecessarily waste it—and to help close that gap by taking part in communal or home-level composting projects. Ultimately though, Smith says the main responsibility lies with large corporations changing the way they do business.

“There’s a lot of responsibility being passed on to consumers by the large supermarkets and large producers who aren't taking responsibility,” Smith says. “Don’t ever fall into the trap of feeling [personally] responsible for food waste on a global scale, because what we do is minimal to what the conglomerates do right now.”

Articles
via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

Keep Reading Show less

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet