Years ago, I was in Thailand and came across a sign above the buffet. It said that customers were welcome to take as much food as they could eat, but that they must eat it all. If food was left behind, the restaurant reserved the right to fine the patron for that. As I thought about that, I actually liked that idea.
I learned at an early age that food shouldn’t be wasted. There are so many in this area, country, and world who go to bed without having enough to eat and it’s heartbreaking to think about. I can be a challenge to choke down a recipe experiment gone awry, but I do console myself that it’s better than throwing out usable food. It also can spark some creativity to turn well-meaning but bland roasted vegetables into a better-tasting soup or pasta dish.
I’ve seen news stories about how restaurant leftovers have been put to good use instead of being thrown away. There are apps where you can buy unused foods from local restaurants or purchase a meal made from surplus food. There are nonprofits that will deliver leftovers from food businesses or events to the hungry. Restaurants continue to repurpose leftover food from today into tomorrow’s meals. As a point of clarification, none of these stories are talking about the leftovers actually served to a customer, but that food that was bought or prepared but never made it out of the kitchen.
I really like how we are thinking about waste very seriously as a society, and how this thinking includes waste of food. As we are having discussions about growing portion sizes in restaurants, it’s good to know that one of the upsides to that is that you can now have multiple meals for the price of one. I learned from my mom to get a to-go box soon after the food arrives to proactively portion what I’ll eat now and what I’ll take home for later.
These days we are purposefully thinking about where our food comes from, what we eat, when we eat, how much we eat, and what we’ll do with what we don’t eat. So much of our physical health can be tied to food and treating it with the same seriousness we treat medications can contribute to longevity.
All of these positive uses of food are part of the good around me. No longer is it just seen as something to selfishly fulfil ourselves. Whether it’s taking care of someone who needs a meal, finding creative ways to prevent food waste, or using food to contribute to good health, food is being used to make us better.