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Monday, January 17, 2011

Waste Not Want Not

I've started letting Emma play with rice, I fill a plastic container with the grain and some cups. I cringe and 'let go' as she scatters the little white grains about the hardwood floors. I tell myself that it's okay, it'll sweep up, and that it's okay that I'll be finding rice in random places for the next few months. Last time she held up her little rice dust covered hands and babbled in confusion at the particles that had been left on her palms and fingers.

Every time I let her play the rice I am reminded of the time that I taught potato prints to a group of refugee girls. At the time I was in grad school for Intercultural Studies, I thought through the implications of using food for an art project with children who had been denied ready access to food. I figured I'd teach the lesson anyway because we were in the US and these kids needed to get used our excesses. And I was desperate for lesson plans.

As I taught the class the girls asked if they could scoop up the leftover potato bits and take them home for cooking. Most of them commented on the strangeness of using food in this seemingly wasteful way. As I thought they would.

I had volunteers for this class, during the class, I will call her the Worst Volunteer in the World, the Worst Volunteer in the World spoke up. She started telling me about a time when she was teaching in an eastern block country and used bean murals as a lesson. She was FLABBERGHASTED at their reaction of not wanting to waste food on art. Setting aside the way I feel about comments on food being more important than art I sat there and watched her clasp her hands to pigeon-breasted chest and tell me all about it. Ugh, I don't know if she was chastising me or trying to commiserate with me and 'my mistake,' but after the Worst Volunteer in the World finished I felt no different and largely annoyed.

My thought in allowing my chid to scatter rice across across our less than sanitary floor, therefore rendering it unedible, is that's it's a cheap way to expose her to textures and to give her another activity. So my 'activity' wastes good food, a high commodity in some areas of the world. I do cringe when she haphazardly tosses it about because I know that it is good food and as we are not exactly rolling in dough any loss of dough is a loss.

I guess my thought is that no one should feel like every tiny bit of food that crosses their path is so precious that used up bits of potato are worthy of eating. (I did eat the remaining potatoes in the bag, just for the record.) Then again no one should feel that food is so plentiful that they can waste whatever and have no repercussions, because no matter what they throw away there will always be food. I have to admit that allowing my child to play with rice and really waste it does display more of, 'there will always be food' attitude.

The world has enough food to feed everyone, there is just an imbalance, we have too much and they have too little. We fight obesity and they fight marasmus. What's the answer, I don't know. What can I do to make a difference? Waste less of my own food, to be sure. But what I save does not go in the mouths of the hungry, and I don't think that just giving it away solves the problem....any thoughts?

2 comments:

Traci Remley said...

I totally understand. I was watching one of those biggest looser type shows where the trainer comes in and throws away all of the unhealthy food. I was thinking it was such a waste, but the trainer was right. These people did not need to be eating that. The only sad little solution I could come up with was to give it to a mission. In BV the mission does help provide food to the needy in our community. Other then that, I'm with you... not really sure what to do.

Sarah Bethuel said...

I do the same thing with my kids when they are little but we use dry beans. And spoons, and measuring cups and many many bowls. LOTS of fun, and years later I STILL find dry beans in random places.