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Food Waste

By Jennette Turner

If you were to clean out your refrigerator today, how much food would you have to throw away?  The leftovers from last week that nobody’s going to eat, the soft, floppy fruits and vegetables. Now think about all of the uneaten food that gets scraped off your family’s plates into the trash can after meals. Add to that all the food in restaurants, grocery stores, schools and cafeterias that is wasted.  Mind boggling!  According to the National Institutes for Health,  Americans waste 40 percent of our total food supply each year. And research from the University of Texas says this waste represents the energy equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil.

Energy equivalent?
Here’s how it’s figured: every moldy orange or unwanted hot dog took energy to grow, process and transport, and the calories (energy) in the food was never consumed. Enough energy to power our whole country for a week sits rotting in our garbage dumps.  And speaking of garbage dumps, that food rotting in the landfill is creating millions of tons of methane gas, which is even more harmful to our fragile atmosphere than carbon dioxide. 

Ideas to reduce waste
Americans so nonchalantly waste food because much of our food is cheap, thanks to massive agricultural subsidies and factory farms that deal in volume. We don’t think it’s a big deal to toss out the leftovers, the way it would have been to thriftier generations. As food prices rise, this may change, because grocery dollars won’t go as far, especially if they’re buying organic or other premium foods. 

Reducing our food waste is a way to help the environment and save money—a great combination! The number one way to do that: plan your meals in advance and buy only what you need. Be realistic and don’t hope you’ll cook that recipe. This means looking at your weekly schedule before planning. Make that slow-cooker dinner on a night you’ll be home late.

More ideas for cutting down on food waste:

  • Serve smaller portions at meals, then offer seconds if needed.
  • Grow your own food – it’s hard work, and you’ll be less likely to waste the fruits of your labor!
  • Store leftovers in clear containers in the fridge, so you know what you’ve got. And if you’re not going to eat those leftovers in the next couple days, freeze them.
  • Don’t succumb to the Wal-Mart/Costco mentality where buying giant quantities of food means saving money. It encourages you to eat more and waste even more. 
  • Start composting. What goes bad won’t end up in the landfill and it will help restore fertility to your soil.

©2011, Jennette Turner

Jennette turner is a Natural Foods Educator in Minneapolis. She Teaches public and private classes, and offers individual nutrition consultations. Jennette launced Dinner with Jennette (www.jennette-turner.com/dinner), to make it easier for people to incorporate natural foods into their diets. she can be reached at jennette-turner.com / 612-374-6039

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