Food for thought

During the fall, food banks all across America remind people that hunger never goes away. Around the holidays they will see an increase in donations because people feel more charitable then but hunger is a twelve month a year problem.

I was fortunate enough to have a food bank in Lockport at my disposal when I couldn’t work due to a medical condition. It wasn’t like shopping at Wegmans as they had limited products including some day old baked goods available.

Even though there were some things we didn’t like, I took everything they offered me. My wife would then find creative ways of cooking these and we ate all of them. It is amazing just what you will eat when you are hungry.

I relied on food banks for sustenance 50 years ago when I was in the service. Our neighbors showed us how to apply for a monthly allocation of surplus food that the state would give to low income people. Then, every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the housing complex where we lived to swap whatever food we didn’t want for food that we did.

I also remember during the Blizzard of ’77 that I took a part temporary job at a local supermarket due to the fact I could not get to my job in Buffalo. I used to dig thru the “Garbage Room” finding perfectly fine food that was not saleable. A tomato with a spot, a dented can or a broken carrot.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that between 30-40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted. Large amounts of produce that is grown in the United States is left in the field due to economic reasons. It is also fed to livestock or transported from the fields to a landfill.

I have done “Gleaning” where you go thru a farmer’s field after the harvest. A man I worked with grew a field of “Butter Sugar” corn one year. At the end of the season, after the price dropped, he gave me the field. Told me to take what I wanted for free. My father in law and I went and picked the corn and brought it to my house where my wife and mother in law blanched it, cut it off the cob and packaged the kernels in zip lock plastic bags for freezing. We had 100 bags of corn and it lasted us a full year and a half.

In my humble opinion, the appeal of perfect produce probably started in the 1940s as people adapted to refrigeration. Suddenly, you could get a pineapple in Wisconsin in February. Clarence Birdseye helped hasten the preservation of foods with his quick freezing methods and the days of going to the grocery store every day were dying out. Suddenly stores were ending up with unsaleable products that had to be thrown away.

Americans waste a large quantity of food. According to a report by The Guardian.com approximately half of all produce in the United States is tossed out, around 60 million tons worth $160 billion every rear. The Environmental Protection Agency has discovered that thrown away food is also the largest component in American landfills.

Wasting food represents many problems for our country. With all of the households in the United States that struggle to put food on the table. That much waste could be used to feed hungry Americans.  Reducing our food waste by 15 percent would help feed 25 million Americans every year. Food waste is also a primary source of waste going into landfills and is also the one of the largest causes of methane in the United States.

When I worked for Nabisco, forty years ago, they used to donate damaged packages of cookies and crackers until some of the donations ended up being “returned” to stores for a refund. Allegedly they also had to defend themselves against a few lawsuits related to the donated food. They stopped donating food to charity for these reasons and just destroyed the product with imperfect packaging.  Some people ruin it for everybody.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act was passed in 1996.  This act protects businesses from lawsuits when they make a contribution of food to a charity. This protects them from litigation except for cases involving extreme negligence.

I worked with a person who knew a salesman/driver for a dairy. He would bring in “expired” yogurt for me. It was perfectly fine, it was just past the “Best if used by” date and unsaleable. It was delicious.

There are many reasons why so much food is thrown out in the U.S. Part of the reason is that food is less expensive and more abundant in the United States than almost anywhere else in the world. But the big reason Americans waste food appears to be the national obsession with the aesthetic condition of their food. Food that goes past their “Best if used by” date gets thrown out or grocery stores throw out unattractive produce or dented cans that shoppers will not buy. Other reasons include damage in transit and stores ordering more than they can sell.

We have to stop throwing out perfectly good food.

Kindness

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You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Glen Campbell 1969:

I recently ended up on the ground as I was on my way to a medical appointment. My legs just gave out. Several kind people came to my aid and they even called an ambulance for me. It got me thinking about kindness. There are many ways to show kindness.

When you find yourself waiting in a line in a supermarket and there is someone behind you with just a few items you let them go ahead of you. It won’t take much of your time and could make someone’s day. Be courteous.

When I used to take bike rides thru the city, I would greet people I would see sitting on their porch. They would always say hello back. Say hello to strangers when you walk past them on the street. Be friendly.

Yours truly walked into a local food bank with some cash and gave it to them. Donate anonymously. Just the act of giving is all the reward you should need. Most of us have clothing we have out grown or don’t wear anymore. Donate your used clothing to charity. It feels good to know you are helping someone out even if you don’t know them. Also you can donate your used vehicle to a worthy cause. Be charitable.

Upon witnessing three soldiers in desert camo going into a local sandwich shop, I circled the block and went in and paid for their meal. When I see a veteran with a ball cap indicating they had been in the service, I go out of my way to thank them. This also happens to me as well when I wear my Vietnam veterans’ hat. Make every day Veteran’s Day. Be thankful.

While working at a super market in my youth, one of my jobs was to go on “cart patrol”. It was especially aggravating to have to get dressed in my winter coat, hat and boots to retrieve that one cart someone had left in the furthest corner of the parking lot. Return the cart to the store or the cart corral if they have one. Be considerate.

Speaking of shopping carts, I give my cart to someone at Aldi and when they offer me the quarter, I refuse and tell them to pass it on. Sometimes I just push it into the cart collection area and walk away, leaving the quarter in it. It’s just a quarter, It’s not going to bankrupt me. Be thoughtful.

My wife likes flowers so I try to keep fresh cut flowers in the house every day of the year. Give flowers to someone for no particular reason at all. Be loving.

We all get frustrated in traffic at one time or another. However, simply because traffic is moving slowly doesn’t mean that we can’t let another driver into your lane. One additional car in front of you isn’t going to make you arrive any earlier or later. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves or shovel the snow for a senior citizen and surprise them. When I was younger, I used to snow blow all the way around the block. I figured I was dressed and out in the cold anyway, why not help people out. Be kind.

The next time you hear someone sneeze, say “Bless you” whether you know them or not. People rarely do this anymore. Be polite.

At some point in time, we’ve all had to call a handyman to help us out. The next time someone is at your house fixing something, offer them a cold drink. Let them know you value the work they are doing for you. You might get a higher level of service in gratitude and maybe the bill will be a bit lower. I know, I used to run a handyman business myself. Be appreciative.

Hold the elevator for someone. The few minutes you wait for someone will not affect your day but it may improve theirs. Be nice.

I have taken extra coupons to a fast food restaurant and give them to families with children or older couples. If you have extra coupons give them to other customers. Stop at a kid’s lemonade stand and buy a drink. It’s usually only a quarter. You will make them smile. Servers make their living on tips. Leave a big tip and the next time you go you might be treated well. Be generous.

Telling someone you like their work, their outfit or their haircut is the cheapest form of kindness there is. Acts of thoughtfulness generally cost you little and can make a person’s day better. Be Complementary.

Recently, I was at a Dance recital. At intermission, I had gone out to get something to drink and they were selling iced, bottled water for a dollar a bottle as a fund raiser. Unfortunately, the cooler was on the floor. Being as I have a balance issue, I asked the person in front of me to get me a bottle of water. She handed me the one they had gotten for themselves and bent over to get one for herself. When she did this I slid my way around and cut in front of her. I can only imagine what she was thinking. When it came time to pay, I paid for both of our drinks.

One good turn deserves another. Kindness starts with just one person holding open a door for another one and that person passing it on.