2013 is here, and with it countless New Years’ resolutions made by people near and far. Their resolutions usually reflect the kinds of practical and ethical changes we as human beings want to bring to our lives, like being nicer to people or living a healthier life, which is why everybody can–and should–get behind one of the greatest resolutions of all time, don’t waste food!
In September of 2011, an article in Forbes magazine announced that “There Are Now More Obese People than Hungry People”. Meaning there are more really fat people around the world than really skinny ones. In December of 2012, stories began swirling about how “More People Die from Obesity than Starvation”–even among children. The degree to which affluent societies–like the United States–waste food is equally alarming. Ones estimate is that Americans throw away almost half of their food. But when it comes to record obesity, Americans are not alone. A number of Pacific islands (Micronesia, Tonga et al.) and small countries in the Middle East (Qatar and Kuwait especially). The average body weight of adults in those countries is almost double that of adults in the leanest countries around the world, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other impoverished South East Asian countries. This, of course, speaks to the shamefully uneven distribution (theft?) of food worldwide which make eating in the US or UK–for example–so abundant.
People living in affluent societies forget (or don’t realize?) that overeating is wasting food. In other words eating an extra cheeseburger or slice of pizza is just like throwing it in the trash. The difference is that the former option compels you to work out to burn the extra calories, and keeps the food imports from reaching truly hungry people. The overworked, over stressed and over-indulgent are under the illusion that stuffing themselves with cheesecake makes them happy, when in fact one could find just as much or even more happiness eating half a slice and sharing the other half with someone else. I go even further, what precisely does it mean to waste food and contributing to humanitarian aide going to Haiti or Afghanistan? Where is the virtue in avoiding smoking and alcohol but allowing your family to throw food into the trash? How rational is giving to charity while taking in more than you need?
This is not merely an economic consideration. Not wasting food is a lifestyle that benefits not only your life but of those around, around the world. It means appreciating that Jesus’ disciples broke the Sabbath out of hunger, placating one’s hunger like Ghandi, and sharing food like Marx believed–never eating more than your body needs, not disposing of a morsel of bread or grain of rice–ever, and being frugal with all resources that you share with others. From my experience with my family in the countryside, only peasants truly understand such stark and sobering selflessness–a rare attribute in our increasingly urbanized self-centered world. Also, considering that warfare is fundamentally a fight over resources [food, water, oil, minerals] being frugal will save lives and be a lot kinder on our environment.
I leave you with an ancient Arab proverb,
We are a people who do not eat until we hunger.
And when we eat we do not become full
نحن قوم لا ناكل حتى نجوع
واذا اكلنا فلا نشبع