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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More