Get To Plate Zero: A Message To Anyone Who Doesn’t Finish Their Meals

Get To Plate Zero

Dear younger Michael,

Finish your damn food!

And before you respond, I don’t want to hear your weak-ass excuses.

I’ve heard it all before.

You were served too much food, or you didn’t expect the meal to be so filling.

You don’t like the taste of what’s in front of you.

The waiter got your order wrong.

Whatever the reason, it’s still not good enough.

Do you realise how many resources go into creating what’s on your plate?

First, you need to plant a seed.

Then water the seed.

Then get the right amount of sunshine.

Apply the right amount of quality soil.

Then you have to protect your plants from insects and birds.

After all of that, you might be lucky to get a fully grown crop.

At which point you harvest, wash and then send depending on where the farmer distributes their product, use transportation (burning an obscene amount of fuel) to get it to suppliers.

Suppliers then transfer to retailers.

Then you buy the crop.

Cook it and serve it on your plate.

After all of that, you have the audacity—I repeat, the audacity, to throw this crop away—because you were full, or it didn’t taste good.

Come on man!

11% of the world’s population is hungry. That’s approximately 800 million people who go unnourished daily.

And before you redirect the conversation to more pressing problems regarding food waste let me counter. I know that a third of the world’s food—1.3 billion tonnes—is wasted each year.

I’m aware that half of the food waste occurs before the food hits the shelves.

I would agree that these are pressing issues that should be fixable. But your ability to finish every meal presented to you is inexcusable. It’s a quick win. All you have to do is get to plate zero, consistently.

It can’t be that hard, right?

If it’s too much, share it. If you don’t like the taste of it, save it. If the food has gone off, compost it. Beyond all of that, think about what you’re going to eat in advance so you limit the chances for food waste.

If you have a party, enforce a plate-zero policy. I’m serious.

If you open a cafe or restaurant, communicate how much food waste is generated from your operation, and guilt people into finishing your food. Or encourage customers to take unfinished food home. Lead from the front.

So next time you order food, prepare food, buy food, or dispose of food, think about this letter. Hold up your end of the bargain by being more considerate about how you consume your food. It’s one thing you can 100% control. So don’t f*ck it up!

Oh, and if you’re eating with others, hold them accountable for finishing their food as well. Let’s optimise what we can control until we can deal with the more significant problems.

Again, it’s inexcusable.

Get to plate-zero. That should be your goal every single time you sit down to eat.

You owe it to our planet and 11% of our fellow humans that starve every day.

Get To Plate Zero: A Message To Anyone Who Doesn't Finish Their Meals

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12 thoughts on “Get To Plate Zero: A Message To Anyone Who Doesn’t Finish Their Meals”

  1. Heya – I like the gist of the message behind your post, but I definitely think this is a bit confronting for many people with disordered eating – particularly considering that excessive calorie consumption is a significant issue for many people in industrialized countries. Being forced to eat everything on the plate as a child has been one of the factors that have now encouraged a deep sense of shame, guilt, excessive food consumption and binge eating for myself and people in my family… I definitely am trying to go zero waste, hate food wastage etc. I just think forcing food down when you’re full, leads to other health issues – and if you haven’t brought a takeaway container (which I do) is it better to leave the food, or take the plastic container they give to you? It’s just maybe a bit of a layered topic when food is so challenging for some people.

    Definitely like the idea of taking away food or composting when not being able to finish a plate. 🙂

  2. This is very true! Some people really are very extravagant that they took for granted the people who don’t have anything to eat. This blog will remind me of that. Thank you for this one!

  3. Lisa League

    I’m a big fan of leftovers!
    Seriously, I think that one of the best things that people can do is learn to stop before they’re stuffed – although there’s occasionally a time and place for that, too. Then have the rest later when they’re hungry again.
    I think the biggest dent in food waste is going to come much higher up in the system.
    But consumers can also “vote” for reducing waste through consciously buying smaller portions/packages, taking leftovers home when they go out, learning to be OK with produce thats not always picture perfect (does it really matter when you’re going to chop or cook it?), not always shopping like they “need” to stock up, and resist buying more that they don’t need, just because it’s “on sale”.

    1. Couldn’t agree more Lisa! We were initially going to write about the overall food waste system, but in the end, decided to focus on what we can control daily. Thanks for sharing. Michael

  4. Food waste is one of my pet peeves and I consider myself very good at clearing the plate. However, I went out for a meal a few weeks ago and normally, I finish everything, but this particular meal was extremely filling. It came with two sides as well as the burger being made out of chickpeas, which I also find filling, so I left half of the sides. I want to draw attention to the fact that I was starting to feel uncomfortable and to have continued eating all the sides too would have left me even more so. I know there are other options like taking it away or sharing, but in this case nobody wanted to share and it depends on what kind of food is it and whether it would last. I know it’s not ideal, but to eat to the point of discomfort only causes you to feel ill, which isn’t optimal and I would not have been able to function at my normal level had I continued. I have, however, learnt my lesson, that with that meal, I should forego the starter or pick a different, less filling main, altogether.

    1. Hi Heather, sorry I only just saw your comment! Thank you for sharing your experience. I think we can all relate with that feeling of discomfort despite our best intentions. But as you said, it’s all a learning experience as to how we can mitigate our waste upfront. Thanks for being so honest and relatable! Michael

  5. Whilst I agree that food waste Is a huge problem, I feel I must speak up for those with eating disorders. This type of pressure is the kind of thing that triggers them in the wrong way. Yes to cooking or ordering less, yes to sharing and composting but Absolutely no guilt trips about not Finishing what’s on your plate for whatever reason.

    1. Hi Joan, we hadn’t considered the impact on those with eating disorders, so thank you for bringing it to our attention. We wanted to be fairly direct with this message to motivate and encourage people to reduce food waste. So hopefully it has the impact that we desired, without triggering others.

    2. Jim Kirkland

      Not finishing food leads to
      lots of problems with insects and vermin. We share a ground-floor condo, and have had problems with ants almost every year. We have
      a 62yo roommate who can not finish ANY given food item. He’ll often start 2 or 3
      food items, and finish none
      of them. So he leaves them OUT and goes to play the
      lottery for hours. Our fridge
      is full of his half-eaten items. We’re battling a mouse now. According to his
      sister, his mother was also a
      wastrel. She was asked to leave her retirement community. Not finishing
      food? MENTAL PROBLEMS!

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