Food Waste: Video Commentary by John Oliver + Editorial on food waste in Guyana

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Food Waste (HBO)

Published on Jul 19, 2015 – Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat in the USA.

UPDATE re GUYANA:  There is also food waste in Guyana…

Wasting what we want – Editorial – Stabroek News – Thu, 20th August 2015 

Along with the ugly concrete high rises that have gone up around the city in the past few years, the ones that have been touted as signs of development by the new opposition, then in government, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of city beggars. Old people and young, they seem to have no qualms about approaching their fellow citizens and asking for a handout.

There are the surreptitious whose tactic appears to be to pretend to need directions, but who, if and when their target stops, relate a sorry story about their need for cash. And there are the bold who position themselves outside certain business places and at the traffic lights with their bowls, bags and palms outstretched. They are apparently doing quite well as they are at their posts religiously, gauging the red light or foot traffic and knowing just when to harry their quarry.

Obviously, this is not just a Georgetown thing. Beggars are par for the course in big cities. The larger the city, the greater the spread of finances and beggars, who seem to somehow be good economists, position themselves to be part of that spread. In Georgetown, that’s one side of the coin.

It would be safe to say that the majority of people who give to beggars do so on the assumption that they are hungry and will use the money they receive to buy food, except of course for those who are easily identifiable as drug addicts or junkies, as they are called. They receive handouts less frequently because it’s obvious to anyone that they are going to spend it on a fix; fattening the drug dealers’ pockets and helping their businesses to thrive.

But in a city where so many beg on the claim of hunger and taking into consideration the many others who are really hungry but are too proud to beg, there is a huge disconnect between what we want and what we waste; and this is the flip side of the coin. The urban municipal markets provide glaring evidence of this, though it is ignored for the most part.

The markets teem with beggars of all sorts, particularly the open spaces where mostly perishables are sold. There are no gates to man or guard as might be the case at a supermarket for instance, and so they are a beggar’s veritable stomping ground. Yet, the question that might be asked would be how could there be so many people seemingly in need in an area where, on a daily basis, tonnes of food is thrown away.

As incongruous as it seems, there is apparently no farmer or vendor willing to give away perishable items which they know cannot last and will not be sold. There are only a few left who move to significantly drop the prices on greens and vegetables that have spent days exposed to scorching 96 degree direct heat from the sun and have wilted as a result.

The majority will hold out for top dollar for as long as possible and finally, when a sale is no longer possible, toss the items out. For some reason, it seems to make better business sense to sustain a greater loss. Perhaps there’s a fear that shoppers will wait out the days until the item is marked down before buying it. And while this may actually be true in some cases, it is not and will never be as ubiquitous as vendors appear to imagine.

The discerning shopper, particularly in what is an increasingly health-conscious society, will always prefer the fresher, plumper fruits and vegetables. Brown-speckled bananas, black-spotted mangoes or tomatoes that have gone soft are usually rejected. Quite often, they are perfectly good inside and the blemishes are only superficial, but it has become part of human nature to turn away what is deemed to be imperfect.

The answer to how people could be starving in a country where there is a perpetual bounty of fresh food is food wastage. Too much of what is reaped finds its way to the landfill site rather than on the tables of consumers.

Like hunger and poverty, food wastage is a global problem. The reasons people dump food are often thoughtless, but sometimes deliberately callous.

It is thoughtless to give a beggar a $20 handout, while daily tossing out food that could have been donated to a shelter, an old folks’ home or an orphanage. Which would be the greater charitable giving? It is callous to dump 20 pounds of rotten tomatoes, while cheating shoppers out of ounces on their purchases everyday. Which is more reprehensible?

Fixing food wastage would advance the fight against poverty and hunger one hundredfold. Steps are already being taken at the global level to address food wastage. Guyana need not wait for the opinions of experts on what is really a basic problem, but can move today to find solutions that might at some point be universally accepted.

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  • guyaneseonline  On 08/21/2015 at 2:02 am

    From Ronald Lammy – to Guyanese Online

    How can we prepare/ edit this example of a progressive solution to food waste.
    One of the many features that impress me is the full kitchen view upon entering the store.

    Daily Table is a not-for-profit retail store that offers our community a variety of tasty, convenient and affordable foods that will help you feel and be your best; food that will keep you moving forward, not hold you back. We provide both “grab-n-go” ready to eat meals, and a selection of produce, bread, dairy and grocery items all at prices that will put a smile on your face, and designed to fit within every budget. Many of our items are prepared fresh daily in our own kitchen onsite.
    We offer an upbeat, clean and friendly retail store environment that is open to everyone in the community. We can offer these daily values by working with a large network of growers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and other suppliers who donate their excess, healthy food to us, or provide us with special buying opportunities.

    I live in the suburbs twenty miles away and I visit the store at least once a week to get the cooked food in meal size containers.

    Ronald Lammy

  • de castro  On 08/21/2015 at 2:17 am

    In a London suburb a shop has opened its doors to people on benefit street….
    Prove you are receiving benefit and just help yourself to free food.
    Supermarkets “out of date” foods are on offer…free.
    No rent or rates are paid and staff are volunteers.

    Maybe GT city council should initiate such a scheme for the unemployed/beggars in streets of the Garden City. Tourists will not visit cities that have
    beggars harassing them in the streets for handouts….GT no exception/exemption.
    Wake up Guyana wake up Guyanese.
    You can do/be better…..its 2015.

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