by Marion Nestle
May 18 2008

Rising food prices: waste or deeper reasons?

Joachim von Braun, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC, explained the reasons behind rising food prices to the State Department on May 6. His powerpoint presentation, (sent to me by a colleague) cites three reasons: high demand, high energy costs, and misguided policies, among them growing food for biofuels and–a new one–neglect of agricultural investment. Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin provide evidence for this last suggestion with an article about how the lack of investment in rice research is hurting the Philippines. Andrew Martin writes in the New York Times about the extraordinary amount of food Americans waste every day–roughly one pound of food per person per day. He cites an estimate from the USDA that recovery of just one-fourth of the waste could feed 20, million people a day. The proverbial food for thought?

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  • Sheila

    I think the waste issue is real, but one that will be a tough nut to crack.
    I recently ate lunch with a co-worker who bought a half-chicken lunch, ate the dark meat, and threw away the breast. I questioned her about wasting so much good chicken, asked if maybe she could take it home for her husband or recycle it in salad for the next day, and she replied that neither she nor her husband ate leftovers. She did not see this as wasteful behavior.
    Ditto for the buffet restaurants in town who refuse to donate their leftover pans of food at the end of the meal service to local soup kitchens, claiming it would deter customers from coming to the restaurant.

  • Matt Dew

    I appreciate your reference to Joachim von Braun and the three reasons cited for the rising food prices.