By: Nikki Nies
I realized I’ve picked the right career path when I acknowledged most of my hobbies and interests are further subbranches of food and/or nutrition. This includes my #1 pet peeve: wasted food. Within the last couple year’s that I have had the privilege to enter many facility’s kitchen’s I have been shocked, almost dismayed at the amount of food wasted. One time, I was volunteering in a hospital cafe kitchen and they threw out the heels of the loaves of bread! Whenever I saw the heels tossed in the garbage, I had to hold back my natural instinct to dive into the garbage to save those heels! Couldn’t they make homemade croutons or something?!?
It’s not just food establishments either. I recognize it’s one prerogative to eat as much or little as they want. Yet, this past July 4th, I was throwing my garbage out and I saw laying on top of the trash can an untouched Big Gulp! I couldn’t believe my eyes! That is one of many stories that has shaped my sadness attached to wasted food.
Astounding stats: Americans waste 10x as much food compared to someone in Southeast Asia; 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S., which is 20 lbs. of uneaten food for each American per month! This equivalent to throwing out more than $165 billion! Literally! All this waste contributes to 25% of the already overfilled landfills.
Just think what we could do with all this extra wasted food! It’s been calculated that instead of the garbage, this food could feed an additional 25 million Americans annually. That would be a huge help, at a time when 1/6 of Americans are food insecure.
What can we do? Get creative and increase our efficiency. We can also look to our European neighbors and take note of the steps already initiated. In the UK, an extensive campaign, Love Food Hate Waste, has been running for the past five years with food retailers and brands partaking in this resolution.
Why does the U.S. lag in more sustainable farming? Unfortunately, food represents a small portion of the average American budget. Too many highlight the convenience of the waste, not recognizing the long term ramifications.
We can’t expect to change things over night, but with small changes, the solutions will come!
- Whether you’re a family, business or whole city! A Food Waste Assessment must be done! It’ll give you a better idea of the amount, type and reasons for wasted food. This will also help in creating prevention strategies!
- Reduce the over purchasing of food by starting more “just in time” purchasing
- Consider prep waste causes and potential modifications: improve knife skills; purchase pre-cut food if needed; reduce batch sizes (i.e. soups)
- Think creatively how to use the food “again”: i.e. instead of tossing old bread, make croutons; whip up fried rice from excess rice; add leftover fruit to yogurt; save vegetable trimmings for soups, stocks and/or stews
- To reduce spoilage, store food at proper temperatures and stock First In, First Out (FIFO)
- Use smaller plates will help cut down on the amount of food initially served! It’s be hardly noticeable!
There’s a reason the U.S. is called the land of prosperity. Let’s be prosperous in health, education and character, not waste! Who’s with me?