France Is Kicking Our Butts At Ending Food Waste

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501140015While most of us here in the US were honoring our veterans and/or having a few beers and browsing Memorial Day sales at the mall this past weekend, France was quietly up to something big. The country approved an amendment to a wide-sweeping economic law that’s expected to pass the national assembly sometime today: an amendment that would turn France’s massive food waste tonnage into a helping hand for the country’s families in need. And this amendment’s founder, Arash Derambarsh, has his sights set on us next — and the entire rest of the world.

If the “Loi Macron” passes today, French grocery stores will no longer be allowed to toss not-quite-expired products into the garbage before their time has actually come, or to turn unwanted items into inedible bleach smoothies before putting them in a dumpster. Instead, the stores would have to donate unsold good to charity. Not only would this free up charity funds to diversify the types of foods available to those in need, but it would help cut back on the 7.1 million tons of food wastage France generates every year.

Does 7.1 million tons sound bad? In the USA, we generate around 133 million tons — just from what grocery stores throw away. And with almost 50 million Americans living in a household where they have at least occasionally not known where their next meal is coming from, that’s beyond disgraceful. Millions of starving families and millions of tons of food dumped behind a Kroger or Piggly-Wiggly. Those are statistics straight out of a Hunger Games-style dystopia — apparently starvation isn’t sexy enough to care about unless we’re actually making kids fight to the death over it.

A few grocers, on a list diverse enough to contain both Walmart and Whole Foods, already donate unsold foods to local charities, and that’s a move that should be lauded. (We can talk about how many people who work at Walmart will have to depend on food from local charities to survive another time.) But it’s not good enough to sit back and hope that faceless corporations will do the right thing, eventually, maybe, without a little kick in the pants from our old friend Mr. Law to get them going.

I was lucky enough to hear a wonderful speech about the future of our planet from science-fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson over the weekend, who talked about the need for women’s rights and reproductive justice in the same terms that I see applying to food waste: We should be stopping companies from destroying and wasting food because it helps children and families in need, because it’s the right thing to do. But we should also be doing it because our planet is in crappy enough shape already before we dump 100 million tons of food waste into a landfill every year. If you can’t do the right thing because it’s the right thing, can you at least do it for the selfish survivalist reason that you like living here and would like the Earth to stick around a little longer? Or how about this, for all the people who were eating Freedom Fries ten years ago: are you really going to let France beat us at cutting back food waste? Can you live with yourself like that?

I’m more than happy to appeal to our worst sides along with our better ones if it gets results in the end. And if Mr. Derambarsh brings his food-saving activism across the pond to the USA, we should all be on board to support him in it.

(Image: deyangeorgiev / iStock / Getty)