At any given time, many of us are fortunate to be able to visit our refrigerator or pantry and find an overabundance of food options to satisfy our appetites and fulfill the nutritional needs our bodies require. But did you ever ask yourself whether you appreciate food?
FeedingAmerica.org reports that more than 38 million people in the United States, including 12 million children, are food insecure, which means there’s “a lack of consistent access to enough food for every person in a household to live an active, healthy life.”
For those 38 million people, they appreciate food much differently than we do. When your next meal is often shrouded in uncertainty, you appreciate food more than most. Especially those of us who can quickly and easily rummage through our overstocked refrigerators and pantries for a midnight snack.
If 38 million people being food insecure in the United States wasn’t startling enough, consider this – nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted. That equates to about 130 billion meals for a total of $408 billion.
These startling statistics do not speak of a society that can appreciate food.
The problem is that so many of us have become generationally distanced from those individuals who lived through times when food was not always so plentiful and readily available. Many of our ancestors lived through times of food rationing or didn’t earn enough money to feed their families three nutritional meals a day adequately.
Food is now about absolute convenience with the popularity of pre-packaged meals, take-out options, and gadgets designed to cook meals quickly and easily at our disposal. But unfortunately, we’ve lost the ability to stop and appreciate food simply because many of us know it will always be there – lacking the gratitude such bounties should demand.
My grandmother was one of nine children in an Italian-American family back in the early 1900s. She would often tell stories of how her family didn’t have much money, and yet her mother always managed to put a nutritious meal on the table. How, you might ask?
My great-grandmother had ingenuity and creativity with her recipes – never letting anything go to waste and stretching her dollar to provide for her large family. Having been conditioned to such culinary habits, my grandmother inherited that quality and applied it successfully when she got married. For a little boy always in her company, I admired her frugality and learned that food should not be something we take for granted or wasted.
For example, whenever she would bread eggplant or chicken cutlets, inevitably, she’d be left with some egg, flour, and breadcrumbs. While most people would throw this away, she would mix it all together and cook it in a frying pan. Topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, one person’s garbage was turned into another person’s lunch with a salad or vegetable on the side. My wife and I do the very same thing today.
So many of us simply eat to live and never appreciate food as a blessing. We strive to cook meals quickly and easily and aren’t concerned with tossing leftovers in the garbage and what those leftovers might mean to 38 million of our American neighbors.
It’s time to slow down and appreciate food. Stop looking at meal planning as a task and instead think of it as a blessing you share with yourself and your family.