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Food Waste

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “clean your plate” and the concept of not wanting to let food go to waste. I also like the phrase that “you can let food go to waste or to your waist”. The hard part is finding a way to keep all types of waste in check.

I am not going to argue that food waste is not a major concern, particularly when a recent report by the Natural Resource Defense Council stated these disturbing statistics:

  • Americans trash 40 percent of our food supply every year, valued at about $165 billion

  • The average American family of four ends up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food

  • Uneaten food accounts for 23 percent of all methane emissions in the U.S.

  • Just a 15 percent reduction in losses in the U.S. food supply would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually

Given the corresponding major problem with obesity, simply asking people to eat the food that they might otherwise throw away is obviously not a good solution, either. What, then, might people do to cut back on the amount of food going into the garbage?

The first and most obvious solution is to buy and prepare only what you truly need. Portion size is a large problem in restaurants, but also in the home, since we’ve gotten used to being served much more than we can eat. If we’re preparing food ourselves, though, we have no reason to do this. Serving only enough to satisfy your hunger without overeating would help with both waste and waist.

Even then, some food scraps are simply inedible. Chicken bone, anyone, or nectarine pits? We also have peels and random other scraps that, even if we’re only eating what we need, will inevitably pile up, especially if you’re eating your daily suggested amount of fruits and vegetables.

So another option is composting, turning some of those scraps into wonderful compost. Of course, not everyone has the space or inclination to have their own compost heap or bin, although even in apartments, worm composting is an option. (Having recently gotten my own worm composting bin, I have to say it’s pretty cool.)

Other places are getting more creative. For instance, here in Portland, ME, a new non-profit called Garbage to Garden has started. For a minimum donation of $11/month, they’ll provide you with a compost pail and will do weekly curbside pickup of all your household compost. This includes meat and dairy, something that’s more difficult for home composting. And in return, you can get compost for anything you want.

For those who are interested in lots of fresh eggs and have the space and inclination, raising chickens is also another approach. They’ll eat just about anything you want to feed them, and I know a woman who said she felt much better about leaving food on her plate sometimes, knowing she could give it to her chickens.

So we do have ways to help this unseen problem. With the recent droughts and rising food costs, reducing food waste is all to the good - and depending on how you approach it, you might be able to satisfy both that inner voice to “clean your plate” and help your own waist

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