Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I for one am excited. Many holidays and celebrations have special foods attached to them, but Thanksgiving is a holiday about food. About the harvest specifically, and taking the time to appreciate what our farmers grow for us (or we grow ourselves). And everyone has their recipes they love, handed down from relatives and friends. So I’m not going to share my favorite Thanksgiving recipes (although I do make the best cranberry sauce), since chances are you won’t use them anyway.
But I will say this. Somewhere along the way, this holiday has transformed into a holiday of excess of calories and dishes, and that troubles me. In some ways, this display of conspicuous consumption goes hand in hand with a general trend our society, which is that amidst a shocking amount of food waste there are still hungry families in the country. Think about this: the average American wastes well over 200 pounds of food each year, even though more than 17 million American households struggle to feed themselves. Translation: one in five children in the US today struggle with hunger. And those kids are hungry even though about 40 percent of food produced in the US today does not get eaten.
There are things we can all do on both sides of this equation. We can donate food to the Arlington Food Pantry, and support organizations like Lovin’ Spoonfuls and Share Our Strength. We can applaud and ensure the government’s continuing role in providing programs like Food Stamps and school meal programs, which puts food directly on the plate of hungry people facing challenging economic times.
We can also do our part to reduce our own food waste. We can cook at home more, eat or freeze leftovers, order less at restaurants, and not be tempted to buy those five heads of pre-packaged lettuce at Costco just because they are inexpensive (but eventually two will end up in the trash). Freeze ripe fruit for smoothies. Turn stale bread into breadcrumbs. Use chicken bones to make soup.
And for Thanksgiving, we can prepare a beautiful meal with the spirit of celebration in mind, rather than opulence, and be thankful for what is on the table.