Two Thirds Of Everything

I bought a bunch of groceries—the things I like to eat—
Some lovely fruits and vegetables, a loaf of bread, some meat;
I picked my way through produce, and I only chose the best.
I’ll eat about two thirds of it, and throw away the rest.

The local stores are brimming with whatever foods you wish
They search the whole world over for some fruit, or cheese, or fish
Sometimes it’s just astonishing, how far we have progressed
We eat about two thirds of it, and throw away the rest.

Our nation fills its cupboards from its sources, far and near,
With berries in December, and with grapes throughout the year
To some, it shows we’re fortunate; to others, we’re obsessed
We eat about two thirds of it, and throw away the rest.

It’s not just in America; around the world, our yields
Are tossed out in the garbage, or are rotting in the fields
While millions still go hungry, billions more, it seems, are blessed;
We eat two thirds of everything and throw away the rest.

Via NPR’s “The Salt” blog, a beautiful ugly story illustrating the amount of waste involved in our food. “Illustrating” being the key word here–the story introduces us to the art of Klaus Pichler and his “One Third” project. Pichler treats rotting food as others treat supermodels; these are gorgeous photos at the link (I am too lazy to ask for permission to reproduce them here, and far too respectful of an artist’s property to reproduce without it), but unless you are some sort of mold, maggot, or bacteria, I don’t think they will look delicious to you. (While you are there, take a look at his other galleries; I’m particularly fond of “Skeletons in the Closet”.)

I certainly don’t have a solution; I am not at all certain that a solution is possible, short of population control. (Funny, when I say “population control” to my classes, their first thought is disease or war; they seem genuinely surprised to consider birth control.) Strangely enough, there appear to be some religious leaders who find that option immoral. It’s as if they actually believe that story of the loaves and fishes.


  1. bassmanpete says

    The commonest response I get when I mention population control is “Well you can always start off by topping yourself.” Almost everyone seems to think that it means killing off people; as you mentioned, there is surprise when I say that I mean wider availability of birth control and the education of women in third world countries (and probably in the southern states of the USA too). Sorry, I couldn’t resist the dig!

  2. Katkinkate says

    I hate the amount of food I throw out sometimes, especially fresh produce. Every now and then I buy more fresh stuff than I can eat before it goes off and I have to throw it away. So to keep that to a minimum, I now by frozen (veges, blueberries), dried (fruit) and canned stuff (pie fruit, pineapple, some veges and beans) and only buy fresh what would last at least a week of storage and/or what I’m sure I’ll eat soon and mostly what is in season locally where possible. I still occasionally have to throw out food but now only a very small amount.

  3. Crudely Wrott says

    Years ago I used to hear that there were too many consumers and not enough producers in the world and that the ratio was worsening. I see now that this is so.

    Too bad so many people are paid large salaries to shuffle about pieces of paper with numbers on them. Those pieces of paper taste lousy and their nutritional content is nil.

    Perhaps we could start using vitamin fortified ink?

  4. says

    It’s the word “control.” When I think of birth control, I think of a woman controlling when (if) she wants to have birth. But who controls populations? Governments, presumably. So population control sounds like forcible eugenics, which should give anyone pause at the very least.

    I’m all for people voluntarily deciding not to have children, though! I’m child free by choice. Not for humanitarian reasons, but that’s a nice perk. :-)

  5. says

    My wife and I go shopping twice a week for the sole purpose of trying not to waste food. This has certainly proved effective, but can be a pain in the ass. I would say we have cut down our wasted food by well over 50%. If you have the time to make it work, I recommend it.

    As for your last statement, it is funny or sad I guess to realize how few people look at something as simple as birth control as a means to control populations. I suppose that implies that religions have done a good PR job on a terrible idea…

  6. says

    Throwing away food should be an offence, punished by being locked up without food for as long as the food you threw away could have fed you for. (Twice as long if you threw it in landfill).

    And we definitely need incentives for staying childfree.

  7. Die Anyway says

    I suspect that most of us are better than the 1/3 waste percentage AT HOME. It’s institutional food where I see the most waste.
    Example 1: Saturday at brunch with a group of friends, one person ordered sandwich and salad. She ate the sandwich and decided she was full so left the entire salad untouched. It would have been thrown out but I couldn’t stand to see it go to waste so I added it to my take-out box. But if I hadn’t done so, into the trash it would have gone along with much other food left on the table.
    Example 2: I’ve been to banquets where a meal was placed at each chair even though no one showed up for that seat. I don’t know if the wait staff gets some of it but certainly a lot goes into the scrap bin.

    The problem here is that it is not cost-effective to try to get these extra dribs and drabs of food to a hungry person. You can’t ship an untouched salad to Bangladesh or a chicken cordon-bleu plate to Somalia.

  8. Epinephrine says

    Gretchen, it’s very hard to imagine that it’s a good thing for governments to step in and tell people how many children they may have, etc. But realistically, we’re not going to stop having more children. And we must stop the expansion. We may be self aware, but we’re also very self-obsessed, and humanity will pass right through the stationary phase into the death phase if we don’t watch it.

    And if it doesn’t happen through birth control, it will happen through much worse means.

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