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Earth Sense: Food supply, overconsumption a growing problem

POSTED: December 29, 2013 12:47 a.m.

For most of us in North Georgia, the holiday season is a time of abundance. Rich meals, cookies, candy and chocolate fill the tables.

But on a worldwide scale, food supply is an ever-growing problem. The vast scale of hunger became general knowledge with the starvation epidemic in Africa’s Sahel Zone, notably Somalia and Ethiopia.

Current predictions by the United Nations have the world’s population grow to 9.3 billion by 2050. This could result in a food crisis of unheard of proportions, as the U.N. estimate projects the need for a 70 percent increase in food production.

But the same organization also found that worldwide, one-third of all food products go to waste on average. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture concluded a study last year to get a handle on how the value of food being wasted instead of providing nourishment. According to Worldwatch Institute (www.worldwatch.org), it amounts to a dollar equivalent of $544 per U.S. consumer per year.

We can’t send leftover Christmas turkey and fried okra to starving nations. But at the consumer level, it’s realistic to make changes which will improve the situation if lots of people implement them.

An obvious first step is not to overbuy. Too many times, it happens that there’s so much food in the house that one feels obliged to overeat — which contributes to the obesity epidemic in the U.S., a separate but related problem — or send leftovers to the landfill. If you’ve got too many groceries, consider donating them to local food banks instead of putting too much on the table.

A quick Google search for Hall County brings up many examples of local pantries. They will be happy to advise what types of groceries they accept, and distribute them to those in need.

A good use for food waste that’s part of the USDA’s annual $165,600 million waste estimate but not suited for donations is composting. All vegetable matter left on the plate is splendid nourishment for topsoil. Whether it’s a for large garden, or just one tomato plant, compost works better than store-bought fertilizers.

This topic, and others relevant to Hall County, can be followed up on the pages of the recently founded Hall County Green Alliance, www.hallcountygreenpages.org.


Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of Physical Science and Director of Sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.


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