A Call to Inspired Minds!

First, allow me to apologize for the lack of content over this blog in the last two months. We have been quite busy, it is true, but, more importantly, we have been suffering from a lack of inspiration. With food waste and sustainability being growing issues of interest, it has been difficult to come up with topics to write on that haven’t already been extensively covered.

Though driven by facts and research, Say No to Food Waste is still an editorial blog, so both of us have lent personal stories and opinions to a number of posts. However, we don’t want this to turn into “Hokuma’s and Eva’s thoughts on food” blog. I could spend eons simply complaining about people throwing food away, but we want to hold this site to better standards than that. We want to be constructive, stimulating ideas and opening the public’s eyes to the realities of food waste and how to prevent (and/or deal with) it.

On that note, we would love to get some help keeping this site alive. Whether you’d like to author your own piece or share an idea for something that we could write about – a question we could try to answer – we are eager to hear from you. Please message us on our Facebook page, and we will get back to you as soon as we can. If you have links to share or events that you’d like to have promoted on our FB page, we’d be happy to receive those, too.


Hokuma & Eva, the Say No to Food Waste team

Preventing Waste vs. Eating Healthily: Is There a Conflict?

People need to learn how to eat better. Poor diet contributes to the two leading causes of death worldwide – heart disease and stroke – as well as a slew of other medical problems including obesity, diabetes, and even certain cancers. Without a doubt, promoting proper nutrition is one of the most important food policy focuses of our time. However, it is by no means the only issue.

I recently spoke with someone who is not entirely convinced of the importance of saving food. She understands the principle of preventing waste but cares far more about getting people to eat healthily. Her example: if a person were deciding between throwing away a half-eaten bag of potato chips or saving them, she’d say to throw them away. It’s not worth salvaging junk food that can wreak so much damage on our bodies, her logic goes. chips

As someone whose life’s mission is to fight food waste but also cares deeply about nutrition, I needed a moment to wrestle with this argument. Since I used to overeat in the name of preventing waste (here’s my reflection post about it), I know how the pretense of saving food can clash with healthy eating intentions. Many weight loss diets even explicitly say that people shouldn’t eat everything on their plates, since portion sizes tend to be excessively large. So, does trying to avoid waste mean making poor dietary choices? In a word, no. The keys are storage and smart decisions.

Back to the potato chip example: I say the eater should save the chips as leftovers. That way, the next time the person has a craving for salty, fatty food, he/she can have more chips from the bag, rather than buying a new bag (i.e. giving more money to junk food companies). Plus, with half the chips already eaten, the portion size is limited, whereas a brand new bag would present the temptation to devour all the chips at once. Alternatively, the remaining chips could be shared with friends or served at a party.

nutsBringing leftover junk food home seems like it just invites bad choices; but that’s where my “smart decisions” point comes in. Once food is in the home, it can lose some of its novelty, making it easier to moderate intake. Since the food will still be there tomorrow, there’s less temptation to overindulge now. Unhealthy cravings can be sated in moderation. Moreover, the root of the problem is buying potato chips in the first place. If you don’t want to consume so much sodium and fat, buy a healthier snack!

I realize my counterargument isn’t perfect, but neither is our food environment. Ideally, junk food wouldn’t be so prevalent, nor portion sizes so large, that we have to debate saving unhealthy food for later. Teaching people how to eat well can only go so far as long as we’re surrounded by unhealthy options.  Nevertheless, the pursuit of good nutrition does not have to undercut food waste reduction.

Busy summers

Dear readers,

Hokuma and I just wanted to issue a brief but sincere apology for the lack of posts over the last month. Between work and travel, we’ve both been very busy and haven’t found the time to generate meaningful content. However, we’ve got some exciting projects in the works that we will hopefully be able to start publicizing soon! And, naturally, we’ll be trying to get ourselves back on a weekly posting schedule.

In the meantime, we hope that you are enjoying your summers (or winters, in the southern hemisphere) and invite you to keep checking our Facebook page, where we have been better about regularly sharing interesting articles.

You’ll hear more from us soon!


Eat Positively, Live Happily

In our hypercritical society, not even food is spared judgment. Although it makes sense to describe healthy food as ‘good’ because it’s good for our bodies and, conversely, unhealthy foods as ‘junk’ or ‘bad’, the terms are often used to judge the eater. People say things like “I’m going to be naughty tonight” before ordering a large entrée; “I’m terrible” when they reach for a second helping; or “I’m going to be good and have a salad, I’ve been really bad this week.” Suddenly, eating becomes a reflection of character.

pos veit10I am guilty of frequently using the ‘good vs. bad’ terminology, as most of the American population has been since the 1920s. In her book Modern Food, Moral Food: Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Twentieth Century (here’s my review), Helen Zoe Veit traces the origins of this perception to the Progressive Era. The Progressive emphasis on rationality, building on the emerging field of nutrition science, generated an attitude that judged dietary decisions as moral ones. In other words, eating ‘bad’ foods or overindulging meant you were unintelligent, lazy, weak and/or greedy – a bad person. Although most people nowadays do not make such drastic associations when they describe their eating choices, this article by Rachel Ankley points out how the continued moralizing of food still plagues society today. We are entrenched in the idea of glorifying or condemning ourselves based on what we eat.

food shame
Check out our Food Quotes page for more graphics!

My response to all of this: STAY POSITIVE. Food is a wonderful thing! Eating is good! Yes, it is important to recognize what unhealthy foods are and moderate your consumption of them; however, there is no need to drag yourself through the dirt for eating an extra slice of cake. In fact, a report from the Institute of Psychology for Eating explains that negative thoughts while eating actually impede your ability to metabolize food. That means that your guilt over ‘eating badly’ prevents your body from working properly, whereas positive thoughts stimulate efficient metabolic activity.

If the prospect of what you are about to eat makes you think negatively about yourself, that is a pretty clear sign that you shouldn’t eat it. A bowl of ice cream, an extra slice of pizza, a spoonful of Nutella straight from the jar – these are only treats if they make you happy. Eating food should bring you nothing but pleasure.


Mixed Feelings (Sentimientos Encontrados)

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently studying in Madrid, Spain! The culture is fascinating, the city is incredible, the people are wonderful, and the food is fantastic. In addition to offering delicious dishes such as paella and croquetas, the country’s food culture hinges on generosity and hospitality, best demonstrated by the customs of menus del día and tapas. Tapas are so famous that they probably don’t need explaining, but, just to reiterate: they are small plates of finger food that come free with any purchase of wine or beer in most Spanish bars or eateries. The foods can range from simple figs or pitted olives to croquetas (fried dough balls filled with béchamel, cheese, and/or ham) or patatas bravas (potato wedges in spicy sauce). Tapas are available basically any time after breakfast, whereas menus del día are traditionally lunch specials – though many places offer them at dinner, too, to appeal to tourists who are used to larger dinners than lunches. The menu del día (“menu of the day”) is a three course meal for €10-12 consisting of a starter, main course, dessert, and beverage. In addition to choosing the elements of your meal from a short list of options, you will typically receive bread and, if you ordered alcohol, tapas. All in all, Spain makes it easy to find a satisfying meal for a low price.

Spain mixedThe limited-budget college student side of me loves all of the free food that accompanies minimal purchases, but I cringe internally whenever I see a waiter take a way a platter of unfinished or wholly untouched tapas. You have to approach your meals anticipating to consume more than what you actually order, or else there will be a lot of leftovers. While I was happy to see one family doggy-bagging their dinner remnants on my very first night here, I think that taking tapas or bread home is frowned upon as greedy or desperate since the foods are so small and, technically, free. It’s a shame that there seems to be a cultural hypocrisy in this country that celebrates food as a social instrument but in doing so enables a lot of it to go to waste. Solidarity fridges have emerged in some cities to allow individuals and restaurants alike to make unwanted leftovers available to the public, but unfortunately that tends not to include plate waste, aka food that has been served and partially eaten. While I understand all of the health and hygiene arguments against sharing ‘touched’ food, I can’t help being frustrated by it.

DSC00779editI was able to get a little peace of mind from the fact that Spain only wastes 2% of the food it annually produces, according to Eurostat data from 2006. However, the fact that this waste still constitutes over 7,695,000 tonnes of food (44% of which comes from sectors other than households or manufacturing) is disheartening and says something about just how much food Western countries produce. I would also be curious to see data on what percentage of Spain’s annual food waste is solely tapas, but an investigation of that nature seems virtually impossible to administer.

Hasta luego,