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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

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