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John Oliver’s “Food Waste” is a video that presents content in a comedic manner, regarding America’s food wastage. Throughout Oliver’s video, facts are revealed with video clips and visuals, along with brief interviews with various individuals affected by this issue. Oliver’s video explores the intensity of America’s food wastage, its causes, and some possible solutions.
John Oliver avidly discusses the issue of “Food Waste” in this video, and I am so thrilled by it. Close to nineteen minutes are spent by the comedian explaining the issue and thrashing the wasteful ways of all players in our food system. Each year, America throws away food sufficient enough to fill seven-hundred and thirty football stadiums, Oliver states, and I find this statistic disturbing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while the standard U.S. household wastes fifteen to twenty-five percent of the food it purchases, thousands – if not millions, of American civilians (49.1 million as affirmed by one 2013 study), struggle to put food on the table. Secondly, once the disposed food is sitting in a landfill, the rotting and decomposing food starts to emit methane gas; a key contributor to Global Warming. As stated by Oliver, “When we actively deposit food into a landfill, we are virtually placing a trash blanket over a turgid food man and Dutch-Ovening the whole planet.”Oliver also stated that food wastage is gruesome because of the amount of resources and labor invested towards cultivating that food, which are wasted when the food is tossed. “At a time when California’s landscape is withering…it seems rather unwise for farmers to pump water into food that will eventually end up as garnish for landfills,” states Oliver.
Some of the blame is shouldered by consumer pickiness. As consumers, we are overly adhesive towards “use-by” and “sell-by” dates, which are meaningless and often inconsistent. These dates are confusing to purchasers, resulting in fear-based waste; supermarkets routinely overstock food items due to impulse buying – supermarkets believe if there is only one item left standing on a shelf, no one will purchase it. But added to making wiser personal choices, we as consumers can minimize food wastage through better policies. As stated by Oliver, there exist tax breaks for food donations, however, for small businesses; it is not a stable component of the tax code. Therefore, these businesses cannot easily know whether the added costs of storing, coordinating and boxing food donations are worth it. A good starting point is making the tax break permanent reason being; until a permanent incentive to donating food is established, as put by one farm owner, “it is a lot cheaper and easier to throw it away.”
The system has become so messed up, and this is reflected by a piece of legislation, the Fighting Hunger Incentive, which was presented in the House of Representatives to make permanent the tax break. After it was passed, it got bundled up with other breaks and eventually lost its meaning. As the year began, the French government established a law that made it mandatory for stores donate edible food rather than throwing it away. No such law exists in the U.S. which only adds to the existing problem.
To mitigate the issue of “Food Wastage,” small businesses should be given tax incentives to donate food. Even though this is a small part of the solution, it is a step nonetheless to what should be done to achieve a bigger solution. Congress should also drop legislation that incentivizes businesses and supermarkets to donate extra food. It should be mandatory for grocery stores to donate edible food that they’d throw out. A bruised banana might not sell to a wealthy soccer mom, but a starving family would be incredibly grateful for it. A lot of food is tossed out while still being perfectly safe to eat!