If you ask most Americans what their favorite Thanksgiving food is, the answer most people give isn’t going to be turkey, stuffing or cranberry sauce – it’s definitely leftovers. Think about all the pot pies, stacked sandwiches, and the times you just popped open the fridge for little swipes of cold turkey the next day. Can anyone really imagine Thanksgiving without leftovers?
Well, for most of the world, that is likely the case. There may not be a refrigerator to keep food in because the family lacks electricity, or more likely there may not be any leftovers because there wasn’t enough food on the table to begin with. In fact, food loss – where food gets spilled or spoilt before it reaches markets, and food waste, could feed the world if we recovered just half of what was lost.
That is why I’m thankful for leftovers. They represent more than just a delicious turkey sandwich. In an age where up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before people can eat it, while almost a billion people go hungry, leftovers are a sign that we can reduce this waste in a small way. If we can convince world leaders to help us do it globally, we can make sure that 1.3 billion tons of food can go where it is needed most, and everyone can have the good fortune of deciding whether or not topping mashed potatoes with stuffing and gravy is a good idea (Editor’s note: It is).
There is a lot of good work already being done. In 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations started the SAVE FOOD initiative, which aims to raise awareness about the impact of food loss and waste, and provide evidence to policy makers on how they can support investments and projects to reduce food loss and waste.
Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, works with communities on reducing loss after harvest. Through “Innovation Labs”, or partnerships with universities in almost every state in the U.S., researchers work to try and find ways to increase yields and help farmers store what they harvest so they don’t lose the fruits of their labor.
Right now, champions in the House and Senate are discussing legislation, the Global Food Security Act, which will enshrine the U.S. approach towards increasing the food security of the most vulnerable. After you’ve awoken from your Thanksgiving food coma, make sure to call, email or write a letter to your Representative and Senator asking that they make sure we do our part to ensure, in this time of plenty, that no one goes hungry.
Let’s be thankful for leftovers, but let’s remind our leaders that by passing the Global Food Security Act, they can ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy them.