Thursday, November 14, 2013

What It Means To Be Grateful

Someone posed a question in a forum about daycare food going to waste; If uneaten food goes in the trash, what's the difference if the child had eaten it instead? Isn't eaten food wasted food too?

A bunch of people agreed with the poster for some reason, but I just can't wrap my head around that. Food is fuel for the body. If you filled your car up with exactly enough gas to get somewhere, but found you didn't use it all, would you save it for later, or would you dump it out because "it's gas you would have used anyway"? That's not economical at all!

Wasted food makes me sad. Bob worked hard to pay for that food and when something forgotten in the back of the fridge grows mold, or a box of whatever in the cupboard goes stale, that's a waste of money too. That food could have provided me with energy and nutrition, and now I have to go out and get more of it. And when perfectly good food gets thrown out instead of eaten, well that feels worse than chucking something expired. At least with the expired food I had intended to try and eat it.

The kicker is that I don't really like eating leftovers. I do it because I can't afford not to and I see the value in making meals ahead of time, or preparing extra food at supper for lunch the next day. Foods I'm not keen on eating again I give to Bob and Tesla or the daycare kids. And if they don't eat it... well, it's food I would have thrown out anyway, so it doesn't hurt the same way as throwing out food I would have eaten.

We're such a rich country, children (and probably some adults too) living here can't fathom what it means to go without. It's only those who take their excess for granted that waste. (So, pretty much everyone living in the western part of the world.) I think of all those people in the Philippines who have nothing right now, and I do feel a bit guilty for having access to so much, wasting food, wasting water. I can't help but feel removed from the situation, since it's so unlikely that would ever happen to us in Canada.

But I'm not the type of parent that gives the "there are starving children in the Philippines and Africa and China that would love to eat what's on your plate!" speech. So send it to them! I would tell my father when he would yammer on about Africa. I thought it was such a stupid saying growing up and I didn't understand it. I didn't know what it meant to be grateful.

That all changed when I was an adult. Not because I had pay for and prepare my own food, but because of a holocaust survivor's presentation about his life. When I was working at CBC I went to his presentation he was giving to a group of high school students. During the war he and his family had to live under a crawl space and they rarely got to get out. They had nothing to eat but rotten onions for months on end. Every day, raw, rotten onions to eat. He hated onions. He said he would have eaten anything, anything else but an onion if he had the chance. He would go to sleep and dream he could have a tall glass of cool, refreshing water to drink, all for himself. They were all so thirsty and hungry and cramped, just trying to stay alive and fight off illness.

His story was so powerful, it was hard not to cry.  That stupid saying... there are starving children in the world that would love to eat what you have... it finally made sense to me in that moment.

I can't wait until Tesla's old enough to understand that story. Just because we can and do waste food, doesn't mean we should or that it's okay. Remembrance Day combined with the disaster in the Philippines has me thinking extra hard about all the things I'm thankful for. We're all privileged. Let's not forget that.

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