News / USA

Millions Hungry as US Dumps 40% of its Food

Rosanne Skirble
Even though one in six Americans is chronically hungry, almost half of all food produced in the United States ends up in the trash.

That's about $165 billion worth of food discarded every year at home, in restaurants and on farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.   
 
Reclaiming food and lives

The DC Central Kitchen, a Washington-area nonprofit, uses some of that surplus food, which would otherwise go to waste,  to feed people in need.  

“We bring it back to the kitchen," says Mike Curtin, CEO of DC Central Kitchen. "And using that food, volunteer labor, and our staff prepare 5,000 meals a day.” 
Production cook Gregory Jones uses a paddle to stir up turkey casserole at the DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)Production cook Gregory Jones uses a paddle to stir up turkey casserole at the DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)
x
Production cook Gregory Jones uses a paddle to stir up turkey casserole at the DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)
Production cook Gregory Jones uses a paddle to stir up turkey casserole at the DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)

On this day, production cook Gregory Jones directs a line of volunteers to strip freshly cooked turkeys to the bone.  

“Break it down. No skin, guys, just meat,” he commands as he upends turkey pieces and a box of salt into a huge pot which already has hefty amounts of pasta and peas and beans.  

He uses a paddle the size of an oar to stir the turkey casserole he is cooking.  

A former drug addict, Jones says this job saved his life. He got training in DC Kitchen’s Culinary Arts program and has stayed clean ever since.  

“The wonderful thing about this is that I’m able to give back what the good Lord allowed me to have,” he says.

Curtin says Jones’ story is central to the premise under which the kitchen operates: that waste is wrong.  

Millions Go Hungry as US Dumps 40% of its Food
Americans Waste Foodi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“That waste can be food [or] it can be productive minds," he says. "It can be kitchens that aren’t being used effectively or efficiently.”

Staggering waste

The waste is staggering.  A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council finds that 40 percent of food is routinely thrown away by consumers at home, discarded or unserved at restaurants or left unharvested on farms.

Yet, points out NRDC project scientist and study author Dana Gunders, one in six Americans is chronically short of food or the funds to buy it.  

Most Americans, she adds, are not aware of the problem.

“It’s really shocking to think that we are wasting so much food when we could be feeding our own population," Gunders says.  "We estimate that if we were to reduce food waste by 15 percent, that would be equivalent to the amount of food needed to feed 25 million Americans, those who are going hungry.”
Carl and Carol Brady donate two tons of squash from their farm in Mitchellville, MD. (VOA/R. Skirble)Carl and Carol Brady donate two tons of squash from their farm in Mitchellville, MD. (VOA/R. Skirble)
x
Carl and Carol Brady donate two tons of squash from their farm in Mitchellville, MD. (VOA/R. Skirble)
Carl and Carol Brady donate two tons of squash from their farm in Mitchellville, MD. (VOA/R. Skirble)

For more than 20 years, D.C. Central Kitchen has worked to end that food waste, and feed the hungry.  

Its drivers make daily pickups of donated surplus from grocery stores, food wholesalers, restaurants and farms.  

A truck regularly pulls into Carl and Carol Brady’s farm in Mitchellville, Maryland, to collect two tons of previously unharvested squash.

Carl says it costs him more to give it away, but, he hates the waste.  

“For a little more effort, I can do some good by gathering it up," he says. "I need to get it off the fields. It needs to go somewhere useful.”

Today’s excess, tomorrow's meals

That excess becomes tomorrow’s meals when it is delivered at no cost to city homeless shelters, charity feeding centers known as soup kitchens and after-school programs, like the Benning Courts Learning Center.

Denise Lacey runs the center in a low-income neighborhood of Washington. On a recent day, she dished out generous portions of hot turkey, pasta and tomato sauce to eager kids who, she says, often don't know where their next meal is coming from.
Each night, chilcren at Benning Courts Learning Center in Washington, DC, receive a hot supper prepared by DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)Each night, chilcren at Benning Courts Learning Center in Washington, DC, receive a hot supper prepared by DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)
x
Each night, chilcren at Benning Courts Learning Center in Washington, DC, receive a hot supper prepared by DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)
Each night, chilcren at Benning Courts Learning Center in Washington, DC, receive a hot supper prepared by DC Central Kitchen. (VOA/R. Skirble)

“I opted for the supper because a lot of kids in this area may not get supper when they get home,” Lacey says.

Back at D.C. Central Kitchen, CEO Mike Curtin sums up the workday.

He says that by reclaiming food, the kitchen is also reclaiming lives, not only for the people they serve but also for his staff, some of whom were themselves once down on their luck.

“We want people to understand how wrong it is for people to be hungry, how absolutely wrong it is,” he says, “but also that by using food, we can get to these issues that create hunger and we can reduce those and we can have success as a community and become a better place.”

Production cook Gregory Jones echoes those thoughts. With laughter in his voice he says, “I’m doing something I always wanted to do.”

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs