Nashville Scene | Margaret Littman
Taking a look at programs and organizations that cut waste and redirect food to the hungry
Imagine the entire space of Nissan Stadium filled to the top with uneaten produce. The lettuce you forgot about in the back of your crisper. Those melon-sphere garnishes served with your omelet at brunch last week. Imagine an arena’s worth of that, piled layer upon layer, rotting away every day.
The stats are mind-blowing: Up to 40 percent of all food in the U.S. is thrown away. Every single day, Americans toss out enough food to fill the Titans’ stadium. About 20 percent of all waste in this country’s landfills is food.
And the wasteful part isn’t just the perfectly good food going unused. Every time we toss those leftovers, every time stale bagels from a craft-services table get thrown out, we’re also wasting the natural resources (such as fresh water and crop land) used to produce that food. When organic matter is put into a landfill, it produces methane gas — because oxygen isn’t reaching the organic material, it goes through anaerobic decomposition. And methane is a greenhouse gas.
What’s more, we’re wasting cash. The average family of four throws away about $1,800 in edible food annually. That’s the equivalent of walking into Kroger, buying five bags of groceries and dropping two in the parking lot as you leave, explains Linda Breggin, an environmental lawyer and project coordinator for the Nashville Food Waste Initiative.
OK, so all that waste is bad. But here’s what makes it worse: At least 1 in 8 people in the U.S. is food insecure, meaning they don’t have access to enough to eat due to lack of resources at some point during the year, according to the USDA. Some estimates put the number as high as 1 in 6. In Davidson County, about 100,000 people are food insecure, 25,000 of whom are children, Breggin says.