Pesach and Wasting Food

Cross-posted on DovBear.

Jonathan Bloom at Wasted Food writes about throwing out food in advance of Passover:

I can’t criticize religious or cultural practices that cause food waste, but I will say that not all Jews throw out or burn their leavened foods each spring. There are different levels of observance, both personally and officially (Reform, Conservative and Orthodox).
When I was growing up, my dad “sold” our chametz to a colleague for a symbolic buck.

While it’s true that a strict observance of Passover may involve some waste of food, I want to make two points.

  1. The need to get rid of chametzdik food isn’t so different from going on vacation or moving to a new house, when you also might throw out opened packages and perishables. In all three cases, one solution is to give the food to a neighbor or co-worker (unless they also observe Pesach).
  2. People who throw out tons of food before Passover are the same people who waste food all year round. They overbuy, can’t be bothered with leftovers, and don’t keep track of their stock. I understand that a food-waste blogger doesn’t like to see of thousands of people burning food in a religious ceremony. But I imagine it’s a fraction of the food that gets thrown out during the year in many families.

In other words, it’s not the Pesach requirements that lead to waste. After all, we have eleven and a half months to figure out how to use up the chametz.

I grew up with a strong tradition of food conservation. Other than an occasional jar of cooked rice and a few slices of bread for my father to burn in the backyard erev Pesach, I don’t recall my mother throwing out food. I think that is the authentic Jewish tradition. But I see and read about huge amounts of overbuying and overeating for Shabbat, holidays and smachot. I also suspect that if Jonathan Bloom were to peek into the garbage cans of the chametz burners after the holiday, he would find a good number of Passover treats that lost their appeal on 22 Nissan.

Related: Pesach Excess

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Comments

  1. With a minimum of planning and common sense it is quite possible nnot to waste food. Besides in the diaspora donating food to charities or food kitchens is always an option.

    • mominisrael says:

      Yes, it’s not a mitzva to waste food. And in the Torah, the families were supposed to get together to share the pesach sacrifice, so there would be no waste.

  2. Thank you for teaching me something new tonight! I didn’t know it was a Jewish tradition to throw out food for Passover. I love learning about other people’s cultures and religions. Thank you for twitting this.

    • mominisrael says:

      Melodie, thanks so much for commenting! The tradition isn’t to throw out the food, but to ensure that your house is free of leavened foods. Most people do have something leftover and that is burned.

  3. Your point is a good one! The same people who throw out their leftover cholent every motzei shabbos are probably the same who toss tons of chometz before pesach.

    We sell chametz gamur (actual leavened items like bread or crackers) but I still try to use up what I have in the weeks heading into Pesach. If collectors come around looking for canned goods, I’ll choose something not kosher l’pesach to give them, I slow down on buying new things, etc. Some people were just frugal before it was cool 🙂

  4. I find Pesach coming a prompt to give unopened food to our local food kitchen. In the past, I’ve organized community drives before Pesach to donate food. We overloaded the local food pantry one year. Some people look for negatives in religion.

  5. i do not throw out food. we sell our hametz. the hametz we burnt consisted of 10 stale pretzels!

  6. R’ Moshe Feinstein’s famous quote applies here: “Az muh fahrkoift nisht kein chometz, vos fahrkoift min?” If you aren’t selling chometz, then what are you selling? If you have absolutely nowhere to store the sold chometz over Pesach then yes, a lot of chometz gets given away and just plain tossed before Pesach. But why? Better planning beforehand would mean that you’ve used up that chometz before Pesach.

  7. You mean not Jewish neighbor/co-worker, right?

    • mominisrael says:

      Yonit, is it cool to be frugal now?
      Leora, there is an organization here that collects unopened packages of chametz and sells them.
      Tikva, that’s great.
      Prof K: Planning is key.
      Moshe, it depends on whether you are moving or planning for Pesach.

  8. Good stuff.. keep bringing it!

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