'Fixing' the Climate by 'Rescuing' Food

Lisa Schiffren06 Mar, 2024 2 Min Read

Judy D’Mello is a New York Times reporter who grew up in Mumbai. When she was a child her mother frequently told her something that lots of mothers tell their kids: Don't waste food. Why? Because food costs money and waste is bad. Now, if she had wanted to write an article about how that wisdom from her mother led her, more recently, to try out the food app, “Too Good To Go,” which has restaurants and food markets offering unsold leftovers, bundled into bags, to buyers on the cheap, I would have nothing to criticize. Again, waste is bad, and food is particularly expensive these days.

But Ms. D’Mello needed to wrap her reporting in the language of "climate change." In a recent piece in the Times she tells us, “the goal is to save money, anxiety, and some greenhouse gases. Worldwide, discarded food accounts for 8 to 10 percent of planet-warming emissions. That’s because rotting food produces heat-trapping methane gas.”

Oh please. The fact is, D’Mello reports, 155,000 businesses offer these discounted meals to 85 million (!) users worldwide. People like cheap food that is already prepared, even if you don’t get to pick what you’re getting. It’s nice to take a break from cooking. I wonder how many of them are doing this to save money; to get pre-made food; or to save the earth? The odds are low on saving the earth, here. Those methane numbers are nothing if not questionable. But we’re guessing that trendy connection is what made D’Mello’s editor okay the rather self-indulgent piece.

Those doggie bags really come in handy.

So, what do we learn about climate change from this piece? Nothing. We do learn where the writer went, and what she got to eat. With the exception of some curry and rice, and a plate of shawarma, hummus, and the fixings, not much of it sounded like real meals. (The shawarma was a mere $6!) Lots of muffins and “nut butter snack bars.”

Monday, January 29th sounded like a real bust. The haul was: “A croissant; a blueberry muffin; a slice of gluten-free banana bread. Two six packs of frozen Chinese buns: one with sour cabbage and tofu, the other plain cabbage. One block of spiced dry tofu. One bag of frozen, vegan tuna made from non-GMO soybeans. A tuna salad wrap sandwich. Six ham and cheese finger sandwiches. A big slice of chocolate cake and six cannoli pastries."

That haul of carbs and vegan Chinese food from three different places cost a mere $17. It was cheap enough. But I wouldn’t want to be dependent on that array of food for my day’s intake.

What did the reporter think? Lots of carbs; “overall, though, it was a fun, affordable culinary tour of Manhattan.” Her biggest gripe? “The containers. Lots and lots of plastic.” Just for the hell of it, the Times threw in a little guide to “Eating and Cooking Choices That Help the Planet," right below the article -- with a quiz so the reader can analyze “the extent to which your eating habits contribute to climate change.” The list suggests getting rid of your gas stove and eating kelp and bugs. Because of course it does.

Lisa Schiffren has been an editorial writer, political reporter, war correspondent, (Afghanistan during the Soviet war, before there were roads), and GOP speechwriter. She wrote speeches for Vice President Dan Quayle, and worked in Counterterrorism/Special Operations policy at the Department of Defense. She writes these days from her native New York City.


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