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  • Writer's pictureericjcarrig

Let’s just feed people instead of using profit and red tape as excuses

Wasting food and not being able to get a good meal should not occur at the same time in the United States.

Guest: Gina Smith, Program Coordinator, Asheville Buncombe County Food Policy Council.


  • Urban renewal has led to generations of people into food insecurity without support from the government or business, which created the situation to help them get out.

  • We waste food we don’t use or like the look of and make it hard to build and maintain community grades for the people who would use that food.

  • We don’t need a pandemic or catastrophe to improve how we take care of people’s most basic need — nutrition.

Fix this:

  • ONE group is advocating to end food waste AND AT THE SAME TIME for more food autonomy and security

  • That means people are unnecessarily not getting basic nutrition.

  • That is inefficient and inequitable. Hungry and malnourished people are more likely to get sick, which drives up healthcare costs for everyone, commit crimes, and be less productive.

  • Most of the food waste occurs in the commercial sector: groceries, farms, caters, cafeterias.

  • We waste a significant amount of food in our homes.

  • Government is not advocating for eliminating food insecurity with funding.

  • It doesn’t make sense, and it’s just not right.

People who live with food insecurity are ready to make themselves food secure.

  • Let’s help connect the food we waste with the millions of people who don’t have healthy meals.

Why are low-income people left with emergency food plans when there is plenty of food?

Returning Food Security to Historically Black Communities

  • Urban renewal policies made historically black communities food insecure.

  • Before urban renewal programs moved Black people to public housing, they maintained gardens, had markets, and shared food.

  • Public housing rules forbid gardens, to the point where maintenance workers sprayed them with herbicides.

  • Over the years, Black people — and Americans in general — lost knowledge about how to grow and prepare food,

  • Much of our society is not self-sufficient when it comes to food and is completely dependent on what is available in their local stores on the food industry to feed us.

Reduce Food Waste

  • 61 percent of food waste is related to commercial operations: farms, restaurants, grocery stores, cafeterias, caterers. For example, Grocery stores may not buy good fruit because it was slightly damaged in a storm, or a caterer may throw away extra meals not used for a reunion.

  • The other 39 percent occurs in our hones

Emergency food preparedness policy

  • Food shortages during the pandemic raised questions.

  • What are we going to do if there is another pandemic or food supply crisis?

  • Do we have a communications network, e.g. block captains who are responsible for organizing and mobilizing neighborhoods?

  • Where are we going to store food during an emergency?

  • The city contracted with the Policy Council to develop food-specific emergency plans, e.g. setting up and maintaining food pantries in food insecure neighborhoods.

  • Community members, businesses, churches, anyone, contributes food and needed items.

  • People don’t need to file any paperwork to visit the pantries

  • They just go and get what they need

The entire system works against good food policy

  • Food stores won’t sell blemished food, and do not open stores in low-income areas because they are expensive to set up and run, so it is hard to make a profit in a low-income area.

  • Government needs revenue, but taxes are hard to raise for things like compost programs

  • The government has set up a complex set of rules and bureaucracy that make it difficult to navigate to get approval for things like community gardens or refrigerators for community food programs,

  • Media talks about fun, charitable, food-related events, not about food waste that happens despite people needing healthier food.

  • People do not have time to fight through the red tape because they have jobs and families.

  • Community members — often most of them — don’t trust the government because it has never helped them before.

Choose to feed people instead of making excuses to not do it

Food Policy and Waste Programs

  • Re-introduce teaching school kids how to make their own meals and use all of the food.

  • Offer incentives to buy and help distribute food from farmers that grocers won’t buy

  • Figure out a way to provide healthy food to rural and poor communities and just do it, regardless of profit.

  • Fund infrastructure for compost programs that pick up and process food scraps, turn them into compost, and distribute the compost.

  • Eliminate rules and processes that prevent communities from starting and managing their own food gardens and markets.

Individual Choices and New Habits

  • Stop accepting bureaucracy that gets in the way of feeding people, which has positive side effects, health, productivity, less waste/methane?

  • Pay taxes to improve the food system to be a healthier more equitable one

  • Don’t throw food into the trash. Use scraps. Compost the rest.

  • Find new recipes for using food scraps like making broth by re-using chicken bones and carrot peelings.

  • Demand composting from your local government

  • Buy less and accept that imperfect-looking food is perfectly healthy

  • Get involved

  • Pay attention to food-related issues in your area on social, local, and national media

  • Join local food policy councils or food waste groups. They need citizen representatives

  • Attend local food access events like a chef's challenge among local chefs who compete by preparing dishes with food that would otherwise be thrown away.


  • Self-sufficient people, who will be more productive and healthy, which can reduce healthcare costs and social problems like crime and drug abuse.

  • Optimized food system by aligning demand with supply. Reduced negative outcomes of food waste disposal: Turn compost into fertilizer, which reduces what goes into landfills, and therefore cuts methane gas emissions, which contributes to climate change.

  • Taxes may go up, but social costs, e.g. drug use, crime, healthcare premiums, could decline, which could offset any tax increases.

Listen to the Discussion

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