Christine Schoefer: The Value of Food

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Food banks are overrun and hunger in America is as rampant as the food we waste. As a young girl, Christine Schoefer saw the difference between too little and too much.

I wanted an apple for my morning muesli but the only one left had three soft brown spots. Normally, I would have tossed it out. But these were COVID-19 times. And I was doubly hobbled because a freak fall had broken my fibula bone. I needed an orthopedic boot just to stand up. Forget making a quick trip to the store.

I cut the blemishes away and grated my apple. It was delicious. And it made me think: How did I become someone who threw away food so easily?

Growing up in Berlin in the long shadow of World War II, I learned that food was precious. Nothing was tossed out. Every plate was cleared.

My mother shopped with just a string bag. Then she remarried and we moved to the United States. The neighborhood supermarket in St. Paul was a miracle; shelves of cereal boxes, pyramids of canned peas, piles of watermelons, an expanse of red meats, stacks of candy bars. I was awestruck.

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Midsummer, my stepdad took us to the company picnic, a jolly lakeside affair. Tables were heaped with Jell-O molds and layered cakes. Grill stations featured men flipping burgers. You could take as much food as you wanted and no one cared if you finished it.

I remember the egg-toss game. People flinging eggs back and forth until they splattered, slicking the grass with gooey yellow patches. The winner pitched his egg into the lake and everyone cheered. I didn't. When we left the picnic, half-eaten hot dogs and cupcakes were spilling from garbage cans. I felt sad. But over the years, I became careless with food.

I decided this was one BC before COVID habit I would break. Instead of stocking up, I would use up. My pantry is full of lentils, rice, tomato paste and more so many ingredients to create meals I will gladly finish.

With a Perspective, I’m Christine Schoefer.

Christine Schoefer is a writer who teaches empowerment skills to women and girls