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Emily Martin’s Blog

Let's HEEL Our Broken Food System

Emily Martin

Posted April 17, 2014

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My husband loves sandwiches.  In fact, he says they’re his absolute favorite food.  Whether it is a turkey sandwich or an ice cream sandwich, that’s what he’ll order if it’s on the menu when we go out to eat!  (Sigh.)

I’ve often thought that there’s something a bit unnatural about sandwiches you order in restaurants or those “pre-made” sammies in supermarkets  – the fact that the slices of bread that make up your sandwich NEVER include the end of the bread loaf aka “the heel” or “crust”.  Where do all these heels go?  Who eats these perfectly fresh, delicious pieces of bread that are a natural part of bread loaf anatomy? photo.jpg

The truth is, according to TED lecturer Tristram Stuart, all of those perfectly good slices of bread are rejected by professional sandwich makers around the world and thrown directly into the trash. This is also the case for about 40% of food grown and produced here in the U.S, according to Natural Resources Defense Council’s report on wasted food.  We never see or talk about this, but in dumpsters around the country, perfectly good food is left to rot because we as a society have deemed these rejects to be unfit for human consumption.  Bananas that aren’t the right curvature, apples and tomatoes that aren’t quite round enough, pieces of bread that aren’t quite fluffy enough all go directly into the trash and into our landfills.

How can this be true in a country where one in six people are food insecure ?  Dana Gunders, resident Food Waste expert at NRDC, tackles this issue in a new documentary called “Just Eat It” premiering at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto on April 27th.  The documentary follows filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer as they attempt to become “freegans” and live exclusively off of food that would otherwise be thrown away.  

Stay tuned to NRDCFood on Facebook and Twitter to hear more news about “Just Eat It” premiering in festivals this spring and to learn more about what you can do to waste less food in your own life. 

Meanwhile, I’ll be serving up “heel-only” sandwiches to my husband in an act of solidarity for all the food wasting away out there.  I’m sure he’ll love it! 

Photo by, under Creative Commons licensing

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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