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EL ESPECTADOR

Our Food … Is In The Trash

Despite huge amounts of food still being wasted every day in the world, initiatives in various countries demonstrate growing public awareness about this modern-day abomination.

Ants on a doughnut.
Ants on a doughnut.
Ignacio Zuleta

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ The amounts of food discarded every day could feed the world's hungry 10 times over, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization has observed.

Three years ago I reflected on the ghastly figures concerning this tragic waste. I lived for 12 years in a monastery where I became accustomed to seeing monks utilize virtually every bit of food. They would find something to do with vegetable skin and inedible bits.

The impact of wasting food is not just moral, financial or social. It's also environmental, given the amount of water and fertilizers used to produce it, the fuel burned in trash collection and the greenhouse gases these processes generate, which in turn foment more poverty.

The scandal is that the planet can evidently produce food for everyone, but our depraved consumer culture and typical ignorance mean that our food is instead being discarded in trash bags or being left to rot in fields because, for one example, the potatoes don't meet size standards. It's certainly a sin.

The figures here haven't changed much in recent years, but fortunately there does seem to be a fledgling process of reflection. People are speaking about effectively fighting food waste in many parts of the world. The French have banned markets from dumping food that's approaching its expired date or that doesn't meet some unrealistic aesthetic standard.

French film director Agnès Varda made two beautiful documentaries about "gleaners," whether they're dumpster divers or junk scavengers. In the Book of Leviticus, the Hebrews are told not to pick fallen harvest fruit, which should be left to the poor and hungry travelers.

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Still-life with dumpster dive. Photo: Starr

In the past 15 years, many groups have emerged and are contributing to better public awareness about the problem: chefs who use ingredients discarded for aesthetic or other irrational reasons, young people and adults who live off what they find, or supermarkets that no longer throw out food. People are starting to talk about the size of packaging, and packaging itself, while "solidarity fridges" are emerging, allowing people who need leftover food items to help themselves.

There has also been a growing number of food banks that receive donations or buy products that are about to expire to distribute to the needy. There is an organized network of these banks in Colombia. But individuals continue to throw out about half of what they buy.

We all must understand the need to safeguard food, to draw up more modest grocery lists, to eat up our purchases and accept "flawed" fruit and vegetables. We must monitor and gauge what we throw out, use the edible bits of our fruit and vegetables, and establish habits that will help curb humanity's colossal food waste.

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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