Fischer: The next wave of French cuisine and its waste


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In attempts to tackle food waste, the French National Assembly recently voted to ban supermarkets from disposing unsold food and instead having them donate their leftovers to different charities in the area. Food that is unsellable yet still edible will be given to local food drives, while food that is no longer safe will be donated to farms for animal feed and compost.

In the past, French media have made an effort to shed a light on the country’s poor and unemployed citizens. Some have even had to search through supermarket bins after hours to feed themselves.

Unfortunately, food foraging is just as much of an issue there, here, and other places in the world in between.  

While most supermarkets have started to lock their bins as a way to prevent this rummaging, others have gone so far as to bleach their trash containers in order to destroy the items thrown out nightly. This, of course, just creates more litter.

With France’s issue of waste suddenly in the foreground, I can’t help but wonder why there aren’t as many laws like similar to this in the United States. The Guardian states that the “average French person throws out 20 to 30 kilograms [44 to 66 pounds} of food each year”; however, we are no better.

In the new documentary Just Eat It, Americans are said to throw out around “one-fifth of everything they buy.” By applying this “zero-tolerance” approach to the American economy, we could begin not only to conserve our resources, we could help build up a community as a whole.

With the Johnson County Food Bank right here in Iowa City, supermarkets in the area could begin to contribute more regularly to the bank’s food-assistance programs. The Food Bank currently takes donations of “nonperishable items, as well as produce, bakery, deli, dairy, and health and hygiene items” — all things thrown out daily in order to make room for new items.

Iowa is also known for its booming agriculture and farm-to-table products. If our supermarkets were to take each of their spoiled items and give them to the surrounding farms in the area, our farmers could spend less time and money on compost materials as well as food for their animals in order to put more of that energy towards new equipment and maintenance.

Of course, these charities and farms will not have the time to sift through each of the items provided. It’s up to a middleman of some sort to go through and organize these products beforehand to ensure freshness. Still, this is just a minor step towards the right direction.

Restaurants throw away just as much food in a day, if not more. The Iowa City Landfill accepts compostable material from commercial businesses, such as yard waste and food waste. However, containments such as plastic wrapping, glass, and metals cannot realistically always be abstained from waste in an industrial or commercialized setting. This creates complications for business owners to properly set up composting.

In the end, this French law is less about any political agenda and more about what’s best for a community and its residents as well as more long-term environmental sustainability.

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