I heard it from my parents time and time again: Finish what's on your plate.
That message about not wasting food has spread from dinner tables to the wider realm of public policy.
Tuesday in Sacramento, leaders gathered to discuss how to reduce the losses on farms and at processing plants, grocery stores and restaurants.
The meeting, covered by The Fresno Bee, brought together farmers, anti-hunger groups, environmentalists, and people in the retail and restaurant industries.
It was held by the California Board of Food and Agriculture, whose president, Yolo County walnut grower Craig McNamara, is a leader in sustainable food production.
About 40 percent of the food grown on U.S. farms does not make it to consumers, said panelist Dana Gunders, a project scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
She issued a report estimating that about $165 billion worth of food is wasted across the nation each year. She also noted the impacts of using land, water, energy and chemicals to produce stuff no one eats.
Anti-waste advocates said consumers can cut down on waste by buying produce with cosmetic defects, which do not affect flavor or safety.
State officials said they would boost efforts to get surplus food to agencies serving low-income people. They also noted a new tax break for California farmers who donate food.
"We want to be able to turn excess into access," said Karen Ross, secretary of food and agriculture for Gov. Jerry Brown.
The topic matters in the Modesto area, which has a lot of people who struggle with grocery costs. The area also has plenty of farms and food processors, which are highly efficient but still leave some of the food short of the consumers.
I can see how this issue resonates with people. Some remember the Depression and other hard times, when they could not conceive of wasting food. Some are concerned about people who can barely afford to eat today.
This is not to say that our food industries are profligate far from it. In fact, they long have been in the business of turning an abundance of fresh products into things we can enjoy later at steady pace. Think of our fruit canneries, our cheese plants, our wineries, all of them making use of farm products that would overwhelm us if we had to eat everything fresh.
The companies make these products available and affordable to most households year-round. Now, with the help of the anti-waste campaign, the rest of the folks can share in the bounty.
Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.