Exodus 16: Food Waste and Food Excess and Food Scarcity

When Moses led the Israelites out into the dessert, they quite rightly whined a little bit. 

They were hungry. 

They were thirsty. 

God heard them and provided bread from heaven, manna. But he put some caveats on the food, it would only last  a day – no point in trying to gather for two except for the day before the sabbath, Friday. 

Of course, some people gathered too much anyways. It went bad and had worms growing in it by the next morning, but they weren’t dissuaded. Everybody likes a little security when it comes to food. 

But for 1 in 5 children in the United States, there is no food security. 

Now for some seriously big numbers reported by the Society of Saint Andrew:

  • Food waste in the United States: 133 Billion pounds of food
  • Cost of the food: $161 Billion dollars worth of food
  • Number of Calories lost: 141 Trillion Calories 
  • Per Capita Calories lost: 1249 calories per day 

It’s hard to wrap our heads around what those numbers mean. Let’s put in context. Each person needs roughly 2000 calories a day, and they all need to eat enough every day for an entire year. So how can we break up that 141 trillion calories in a way that is easy to understand? Well there are roughly 195,250 people in Amarillo, Tx and we could feed all of them on just what was thrown away last year for 989 years. A millennia of food was thrown away last year or left unharvested. 

Of course Amarillo is a small city and there are more than 300 million people in the United States, but there was enough food to feed 187 million people for the year that was let go to waste. 

And of course this is when 1 in 5 American Children go hungry. 

The Epa reports the largest part of trash sent to land fills is food. They’d like us to compost it or send it to places that would compost it, but we don’t. We just throw it away. I do too. 


This brings us back to the Israelites. See, I have three thoughts about us and them. First, we need to take a look at how to cut back waste and gather only what we need so that we can share the rest. The EPA helps us along with that:


Second, we need to start trusting to God for our daily food instead of buying so much for so long. How far do we really live from the grocery store? Most of us could walk if we weren’t too busy. Gizmodo put together an amazing graphic to show how far from towns to grocery stores across the country. 



The longer lines represent the distances that some small towns have to travel to buy groceries, but you can see for most of us it’s less than ten and usually on the way to or from work. Yet we buy huge quantities of perishables that we will then throw away. I say we knowing that I myself threw out a couple pounds of produce this morning, some mushrooms that I intended to use earlier this week. 

But this doesn’t seem like a trust issue to me. It seems like a convenience issue. Convenience and trust are connected though, why has it become inconvenient to drive a few miles and pick up what I need for that day? Is it because maybe I don’t trust to have enough time to spend on procuring sustenance? Is it because I’m afraid of getting hungry? Now, I’m not against storing food. We aren’t on journey’s through the wilderness, but we’ve gotten to the point that we no longer think anything of food going bad in our fridges and pantries while others do without.

Which brings me nicely to number three. The break in trust isn’t us not trusting God to provide, we have reached the point that the writer of proverbs predicted – we’re so rich that we’ve forgotten who God is. Primarily, God is a God who cares for the poor. We’ve broken that trust by not providing the abundance that we’ve received into the hands that needed it. You and I are agents of God’s provision and in bonds of sacred trust to our neighbors. 

Augustine once said, “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” It’s so easy for me to forget about this, but then I start thinking of the nearly 17 million kids that are hungry in our country, in our neighborhoods, in our towns, in our cities, in our states. Then, I think about my daughters, and wish I knew more people to help.

It’s enough to make manna gathered a day early start to turn in your stomach. 


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
This entry was posted in Good Eats, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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