Wealth and Waste
Bay Area Food Polemic
Did you know that 1 in 10 people in the bay area that are food insecure? This is all while over 6 million tons of food waste in California every year goes uneaten, most of which is sent to landfills. While the issue food insecurity is often hidden, the culinary delights are well-highlighted and marketed. The Bay Area is well known for their Michelin-star restaurants, one of the most coveted awards for restaurateurs. The map here shows the 50+ Michelin star restaurants ($75+/meal) and waste facilities in the Bay Area.
In this project we asked the following question:
Where are the waste facilities and the Michelin star rated restaurants in the Bay Area?
There is a food paradox in California. While California is known as the breadbasket of the US, it has a higher rate of food insecurity (12%) than the national average (8%). These rates have decreased in the last two years but still have not reached below the averages before the 2008 recession. The hardest hit communities are low-income, working poor, and communities of color. Despite increased public awareness of issues with the modern industrialized food system, the food waste – food insecurity paradox persists and affects millions of Americans every day. Food loss is defined as “food that spoils or incurs reduction in quality before it reaches the consumer”, this includes food that goes unharvested on farms or spoils due to refrigeration issues. Food surplus is food that was not used for its intended use but may have some other use, such as food that was “too ugly” for the market. Food waste is surplus food that is not recovered in any way and is disposed of in landfills. Food insecurity is defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Current efforts to combat food waste have focused on diverting food waste from landfills through funding composting and biodigester programs. These programs maintain the divide between people, food, and waste.
Food insecurity is hidden and invisible. Conversely, some of the most expensive places to eat are advertised well and tend to be highly visible.
Food banks and other organizations providing food to the hungry fill a gap of nutritional and caloric needs of many households, but there are hurdles of stigma and education. In California it is estimated that 7 million Californians are eligible for CalFresh, a food assistance program, but only 4.5 million participate.
Explore other regions that have high food insecurity and incredible wealth and or high food production such as the Central Valley. While the Central Valley is one of the nation’s most agriculturally rich regions, it consistently has food insecurity rates higher than the national average.