The parental commandment to ‘eat up because people are going hungry’ is, from a strictly economic point of view, nonsense. Eating less of the food on your plate for which, presumably, you have already paid will not increase the incomes of the hungry nor will leaving your greens and mash potatoes reduce the price of food for the poor.
But that’s hardly fair. The point of telling kids to eat up is to try to build a sense of connection and value to the meal, not least so that they learn a primal lesson about not wasting food.
It’s a lesson that seems not quite to have taken in the United States, where the mechanisms for valuing food – driven by markets – are particularly shoddy. In a recent piece in the Public Library of Science, researchers have found that the average American tosses about the same as an average Haitian hungry person eats in a day. Of course, this average makes it seem that Americans individually are profligate. That’s not fair either. The majority of this waste is not generated in the home, but through the excesses of the food chain. It’s an entrenched and systemic problem. And teaching capitalism how to value food properly is far much harder than getting kids to eat their greens.
[Hat tip: Joe]