One in six Americans face hunger, according to the USDA. These are your neighbors, people you see on the street and maybe … even you. Yet hunger in America is not a hot topic for the presidential election: not like health care, job creation, free college education or national security. Yet quality nutrition is every bit as important to the success of a country as access to health care and education.

Here are some other facts: One in seven Americans are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — and half of those are children. Food insecurity — the lack of access at times to enough food for al household members — affects 17.5 million American families. 

And yet we waste food

According to savethefood.com, 40 Percent of food is wasted in this country.

Ever look in a restaurant dumpster? The amount of food in there should be criminal; the same goes for grocery stores. In France it is criminal for grocers to throw out edible food but in America the fear of law suits if someone gets sick or dies after eating the food, as well as the inconvenience of donating the food, means most establishments would rather toss than donate.

“Food waste reduction is a priority, and we are continuously making it a priority by implementing new programs and looking for new ways and new partners to salvage as much food as possible,” says Brian Greene, President/CEO of Houston Food Bank, America’s largest and nationally recognized as Feeding America’s Food Bank of the Year in 2015.  “America’s food banks have been ‘at the table’ on the issue of food waste reduction for decades, and will continue to be until food waste is alleviated.”

The Houston Food Bank distributes 79 million meals through its network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other hunger relief charities in southeast Texas, feeding 800,000 individuals each year. It hardly seems possible that there can be so many hungry people in a state where 42-once bone-in rib eyes are found on most steakhouse menus and rodeo midways feature abundant booths with giant turkey legs and deep-fried candy bars on sticks.

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But that’s what hunger in America is about: just as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer — the fat get fatter and the hungry get hungrier.

It would be nice to hear an intelligent debate on a national level about this problem. How we as a country can stop wasting resources — food and energy, stop filling up landfills and feed those who go to bed hungry at night.

 What you can do

  • First off, stop throwing away food!
  • Buy limited quantities of fresh food to consumer. In most countries people go to local shops to buy what they are going to cook that evening. I’ve never seen people in other countries go to big box stores and stock up on prepackaged and fresh food for a month and then they never get around to eating all the bananas before they go brown, so in the trash they go.
  • Oh, and if you support a local sports team, contact them about joining Rock and Wrap it Up, a nonprofit that works with 60 MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL teams to repurpose game-day food from major stadia across the country. If you’ve ever worked in a stadium you know that at the end of the game as throngs stream out to the parking lot, food vendors are dumping thousands of pre-made hot dogs, burgers and pizzas, or even nachos, in the trash.

And finally

Think about ordering an appetizer as a meal in a restaurant, or sharing an entrée or at least taking your leftovers home for a second meal.

 “There is no good reason that people should be without food in our society,” says Greene. And he’s right. You want to make America great again? Make sure everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food. #stopsupersizingyourorder