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The Daily Tar Heel

I looked at the half-eaten slice of pumpkin pie on my plate.

It was past midnight post-Thanksgiving day, and I was adamant about continuing the tradition of stuffing my face with food until I finished watching reruns of House Hunters on HGTV.

My dog Oreo, who ate his tiny weight in turkey, slept lazily near my side, his head resting on my over-stuffed belly. Right as I decided that I could not eat another bite and would throw the pie away, I began to hear melancholic music coming from my TV.

Pictures of starving children flashed on the screen as a soothing voice encouraged me to “donate to feed the children this holiday season.”

I felt awkward with the potentially wasted piece of pie on my plate and starving kids staring at me across the room.

Oreo, sensing my first-world guilt, looked at me, and then at the pie. I slowly placed another piece of pie in my mouth.

“Don’t look at me like that,” I muttered to Oreo. He yawned and fell back asleep.

The awkward tension that developed that night between the starving children and the gluttonous me got me thinking about just what would have happened to my pie if I had thrown it away. Where would it have gone, and why should I care?

After investigating the Solid Waste Authority of my town, I figured out that my pie would have spent the remainder of its life in a landfill, contributing to the more than 34 million tons of food waste generated annually by Americans.

Journalist, food activist and Durham resident Jonathan Bloom, in his book “American Wasteland,” tells us that Americans waste more than 40 percent of the food we produce for consumption, while food prices and the number of people in this world without enough to eat is on the rise.

I met Bloom in a food and sustainability course last semester, and the reality he describes about a world in jeopardy is unsettling.

With so much waste juxtaposed against so much need, it is difficult to ignore how vital food justice is in addressing a dire human rights issue.

The question then becomes “how?” Is producing paths for my no-longer-wanted piece of pie to reach the hands of starving children in Africa the best solution?

Probably not, especially considering sustainability as a factor in improving access to food.

There are experts on economic policy, agriculture and sustainability who are working hard to figure out how best to solve food issues. What we can do is realize that our lives are a culmination of choices, and what we eat has concealed implications beyond our limited perceptions.

Bloom explains that consumers have powers in their choices, whether it be purchasing less food or advocating for more access to fresh produce in urban areas.

If you take a moment to reflect upon your food choices this holiday season, your choices may just help, dare I say it, change the world.

Jagir Patel is a columnist from the Daily Tar Heel. He is a senior religious studies major from Boynton Beach, Fla. Contact him at

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