Food for Thought

By Grace Doerfler – 10th Grade, Oakland Catholic High School
Like a lot of people, I often don’t think much about the unfinished scraps of food on my plate at the end of a meal.  Most of the time, I have no second thoughts about rinsing a bite of burger or a couple leaves of lettuce down the drain.  However, when I read the statistic that between 160 and 295 billion pounds of food are thrown away annually, I was completely staggered.  Those scraps that many of us simply toss into the trash are a small part of an enormous issue.  Of course, there’s not a quick fix for the global food waste epidemic, but I’ve seen the large-scale problem reflected in a smaller frame here in Pittsburgh, and there are certainly ways to reduce our own community’s wastefulness.
Take school cafeterias.  Since kindergarten, I’ve witnessed lunch line volunteers plunking required items on trays—mystery meats and soggy vegetables that get thrown unceremoniously away half an hour later without fail, untouched by picky eaters.  True, the younger kids need guidance to ensure that they receive balanced meals, but there’s got to be a better way to encourage healthy choices than mandating unappealing dishes that will only be wasted. Changes in school cafeteria systems could make a huge difference in both kids’ nutrition and the amount of food waste that schools churn out. Cooks might, for example, swap ground beef that would ordinarily be used in beeferoni for tacos with plenty of colorful vegetables. The result would be a tastier, healthier option and far fewer trays bound for the trash can.
As for dinner, I’m continually struck by how outrageously large the portions are at many restaurants.  When was the last time you finished your entire entrée when dining out?  The extra food you don’t eat is simply carried back into the kitchen and thrown away, as it can’t be served again.  If portions were cut down to more reasonable serving sizes, food waste could be significantly reduced, too.

From my own experiences in school cafeterias and restaurants, it’s obvious that change is needed soon to combat widely ignored wastefulness. Pittsburgh is just one city, but change within the community is doable, starting from individual kitchens. I have strong hopes that not too far in the future, our city will become more aware of the food waste issue, and ’Burghers will no longer waste their burgers.


Grace DoerflerGrace Doerfler is a sophomore at Oakland Catholic High School who lives in West View. In her spare time, she enjoys running cross-country, playing the oboe, and baking. 

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