Illustrating Abundance

Whenever I’m asked why we waste so much food, ‘abundance’ is one of the first words I utter.

We grow far more food than we need, averaging 3900 calories per person per day.* One result of our abundance is that we’re inundated with food. Supermarkets have a seemingly bottomless supply of food (When was the last time you saw a store out of something?). And grocers favor heaving, heaped displays.

Yet, increasingly, we see food at other locations. We’ve grown accustomed to food taking center stage at gas stations. But another trend, as The NY Times notes, is increased food offerings at big box retailers and pharmacies.

These added offerings aren’t necessarily harmful. Pharmacies can be an oasis of fresh foods in urban food deserts. That’s if they’re stocking fresh fruits and vegetables. Big box retailers are redefining the retail food business, lumping food purchases in with other household goods (a trend happening in reverse at some traditional grocers).

Yet these increased food options communicate our abundance in a somewhat harmful way. They contribute to the sense that we have so much food that we don’t need to treat it carefully. And so we don’t.

*Amazingly, despite this abundance, we don’t manage to get food to all of those in need. Redistribution remains a problem, although it’s improving via food recovery. And the USDA doesn’t help as they once did in the 90s.

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