If you are looking for a way to make a real difference and embrace more environmentally-friendly practices, consider focusing on food waste. Food that is discarded is referred to as food waste. Approximately 40% of all food or about 160 billion pounds of food ends up in landfill.
Aside from the enormous amount of resources that went into producing this uneaten food, it’s also a significant producer of methane gas. While carbon dioxide is typically referred to as the “bad guy” of greenhouse gases, methane is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. Cutting back on food waste can reduce the greenhouse effect, but also has the potential to improve human health by helping solve our nation’s hunger issues.
At a time when nearly half of all edible food is discarded, 1 in 4 kids also go hungry in the United States. More than 200,000 people, including 58,000 children in Westchester County, are food insecure and have limited or uncertain availability of nutritious food. Capturing just 30% of all the food lost in the United States could feed every food insecure household.
If you’d like to contribute to the fight against hunger, food waste and greenhouses gases check out some of these tips:
Volunteer in your community with food recovery/distribution programs such as:
- A community farm—help plant, weed and care for vegetables where much of the produce is donated to the local food banks, pantries and distributed to those in need.
- A food rescue group--gleaning groups help pick fruit and vegetable crops that would otherwise never be picked and go to waste. In more urban areas, food rescue often includes gleaning of supermarkets.
- A local food bank or food pantry—help volunteer by ordering, sorting, bagging or distributing food. Many opportunities exist with a variety of needed skills.
Cut back on your household food waste:
- Meal plan and create shopping lists--purchasing food based on planned meals and checking to see what you already have on hand will help to reduce food waste from spoilage. Utilize leftovers either as building blocks for other meals or lunches.
- Use proper storage and your freezer---storing food in airtight containers can extend the life of many foods. Also, instead of letting excess food spoil, freeze it.
- Compost your food scraps--this lessens the amount of food going to landfills and methane gas production. It also improves the quality of soil, helps retain water in the soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Understand food date labeling--- 90% of food is thrown away too soon with many food date labels merely quality indicators by manufacturers and unrelated to safety. With only a few exceptions, most food will remain safe to eat beyond its expiration date. This is particularly true of foods with a “best before” or “use by” dates, and it should also be noted that “sell by” dates are meant for store staff.
- Donate excess homegrown fruits and vegetables--a local pantry, soup kitchen or neighbor in need will be grateful for the nutritious donation.
Promote awareness among friends, family and local organizations:
- Share your knowledge, concerns and even this list with your friends, family, colleagues and local organizations.
- Host discussions about solutions to food waste and hunger issues in your community.
- Organize a diverse local group to assess effective ways to reduce food waste and food insecurity.
Feeding Westchester. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://feedingwestchester.org
Kirby, A. (2013, September 22). Food Waste Worsens Greenhouse Gas Emissions: FAO. Retrieved April 13, 2018, from http://www.climatecentral.org/news/food-waste-worsens-greenhouse-gas-emissions-fao-16498
Save The Food. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2018, from https://www.savethefood.com
The Problem | EXPIRED? Food Waste in America. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2018, from https://notreallyexpired.com/the-problem/
To wet your Earth Day appetite, check out this low-cost dish that keeps nutrient-rich broccoli and parsley stems from getting tossed in the trash.
Garlicky Broccoli Stem Dip
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, (or to taste)
2 - 2 1/2 cups broccoli stems
¼ cup parsley stems, coarsely chopped
1 cup canned cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350. Combine garlic, oil and red pepper in a small custard cup. Cover tightly with foil. bake until garlic is tender, about 35 minutes. In the meantime, peel the thick skin off the broccoli stems and coarsely chop them.
Steam broccoli and parsley stems until tender, about 8-10 minutes. In a food processor, blender or with a potato masher-- process the softened broccoli and parsley stems with the beans, lemon juice and oil/garlic mixture. Season to taste.
Serve with vegetable crudité, whole grain crackers or toasted baguette slices. Enjoy.
© 2018 Marie Roth, RDN