Planet Raves: Capitalism is driving food waste

(Design: Vincent Jiang and Caitlin Dutt)

In our fast-paced, post-industrial society, it’s effortless to pay no attention to food production, consumption and waste. Since becoming educated on these issues and problems, I have been able to analyze my own situation and view how much food I waste on a weekly basis.

As a married mother of three young children, our weekly grocery bill rounds up to approximately $200. This is a large portion of our income and one of our regular complaints is the high costs of feeding our family of five.

Along with our weekly grocery budget, we eat out multiple times per week. My husband works shift work and I am a full-time student. After making sure our children have their lunches packed with our weekly grocery items, we often feel like it is too time-consuming to pack a lunch for ourselves, so we resort to eating out because it’s fast and simple. Not only is this contributing to our waste and financial strain, it’s also affecting our health and lifestyle.

A typical family throws away one full week’s worth of groceries per month. For us, this means we are throwing away $200, along with all the food we didn’t consume. The largest waste numbers come from consumers wasting the food they purchased. In Canada, the value of Canada’s annual quantifiable food waste is $31-billion.

If so much food is wasted, why are children going to bed hungry? Because capitalism strives to be more and more efficient, therefore it is cheaper to throw out food than to give it to someone in need. This leads to the question, is the problem really food or is it the system? Are we trapped? As workers, we have to keep working harder and harder for the capitalists and we have to strive to become so efficient that our over-productive lives become so busy we no longer have time to cook a fresh meal at the end of the day. We are exhausted and we want a break and we do this through the use of convenient foods.

I feel very trapped between two worlds – the busy lifestyle of being a full-time student and the demand of being a full-time mom. I want to excel at both and it often feels impossible. As a mother, there is so much pressure that comes from everyone and everything that surrounds me to feed my children the best, most popular, beautifully-diced food but I end up purchasing food that doesn’t get eaten. My children have been sent to school with their perfectly-packed lunches returned half-eaten, with the remainder thrown in the garbage all due to the competitive factors of being a mom in the modern world.

When I walk into a supermarket, I am instantly exposed to so many perfect-looking items. Capitalists have us trapped in a system that works for them. Not only are they wasting food but they also have full control of our desire to waste. We walk into the store and everything is perfect, everything is calling our name, so we buy way more food than we need. There are sale items, so we stock up on things that will most likely go bad, but it doesn’t matter because it’s on sale. There is a science to pulling in the consumer and capitalists have it perfected.

I have learned from experiencing the reality of why I produce the waste I do and I will be working a lot harder to buy less items when I’m grocery shopping. I will make a larger effort to plan out my meals so I know exactly what I need each week so I can avoid waste. Furthermore, I need to become more conscious of the purchases I make because it’s what I “should” be buying and not what I want just because. My hope is for things to change dramatically regarding food waste and for less people to go hungry in a society where the main hunger is for money.


Planet Raves is The Aquinian’s environmental column, featuring reflections from students in environmental studies classes.


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