The Food Network lives on contests—young chefs competing with peers for $10,000 or facing celebrity pros for glory. It features fat chefs and bad cooks, to whom it offers improvement. It reworks failing restaurants and glorifies tasty grease. It is not where one looks for social commentary.
During the second week of January, though, the network aired a program titled “The Big Waste.” This show had the usual celebrities in a cook-off challenge, but here they had to cook a dinner for 100 guests using food that was destined to be thrown out. The men’s team (Bobby Flay and Michael Symon) hit the road, finding cabbages on farms and peaches in orchards and fine rib ends that would taste great but could not be sold—too small, too fatty. The women (Anne Burrell and Alex Guamaschelli) found quantities of great food discarded from supermarkets. Along the way they met a New York “freegan,” a well-off man who eats only what he finds for free, and from him learned the art of Dumpster diving.
Through the humor and contrasts with sanitized shopping, viewers learned about some big issues. Consumers will not buy a slightly dented tomato or a mildly bruised peach. Eggs too big or too small for standard containers do not head for market. The viewer sees a variety of wasteful practices, from gardens to butcher shops to corner stores. Though the show only hints at reasons, it introduces an embarrassing and challenging issue: in the generally prosperous society of the United States, almost 15 percent of the population live with food insecurity, while it discards in waste 27 million tons of edible, nutritious and tasty food every year. The Food Network has a lot to teach.
The Marrying Kind
Even though divorce rates in the United States have leveled off, the proportion of married people in the population has never been lower. Just 51 percent of all adults are currently married. Compare that with the 72 percent of married adults in 1960. Catholics are much like the general population in this respect. In 2007, for example, when 53 percent of U.S. Catholics were married, the national average was also 53 percent. Also, with marriages taking place later in life, the average ages at first marriage are at record highs: 26.5 for brides, 28.7 for grooms. Higher education accounts for some of the delay; proportionately more college-educated adults are marrying than are less educated couples. Clearly, the patterns of family life have changed in recent decades: more adults live alone, more parents are single, more couples cohabitate. Still, marriage is not yet considered obsolete. Researchers from the Pew Research Center found in December 2011 that 61 percent of the “never married” respondents to their marriage survey indicated they would “like to marry.”
How are parishes responding to the changes reflected in the data? The church continues to offer a vision of Christian marriage; parishes still prepare engaged couples and marry them. But in too many parishes, parishioners outside “the 1960 family” model are still considered anomalies. These statistics show otherwise. Parishes must find ways to attract, welcome and minister to married and unmarried couples, families of all types and singles as well. Tailoring ministry to diverse groups requires extra effort, openness and creativity from parish leaders. Yet without a broader outreach, parish ministry risks being irrelevant to half the adult population.
The Cost of Business
Before purchasing an item, most consumers first check the price tag. But a new California law will help consumers discern whether that bargain sweater comes at a much greater cost. The law requires companies to provide greater transparency about the supply chain of products sold in the state, thus promoting more ethical and responsible behavior from the corporations that sell those products. The law applies to any company that has annual global sales of over $100 million and does business in California. Companies must state clearly and publicly their policy regarding the monitoring of their suppliers to ensure that there is no use of forced labor, child labor or human trafficking.
Although the law is applicable only to California, it could have a positive impact across the country, because few companies are willing to give up the huge California market in order to avoid compliance. The law will force these national companies to consider more carefully their supply chain and the needs of their work force. Those companies that need assistance in adjusting to this change may find help in new guidelines for supply chain accountability that were jointly issued by Christian Brothers Investment Services, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Calvert Investments. The law will also make available the information needed by consumers who are trying to become more deliberate about how they spend and invest their money.
We hope the implementation of this California law will inspire other corporations, large and small, to foster more ethical business practices and increase awareness of the need for a just wage and safe labor conditions.