At a certain point, I became that person who brought the Thanksgiving turkey bones home in a garbage bag.
I’m only a generation removed from the type of Appalachian poverty that settles in your DNA. Though the time in which I grew up was one of relative abundance, in our family you wasted nothing if you could help it.
My mother never made me clean my plate because she only served what we needed to eat, and the rest was eaten later. We didn’t have “leftovers” — it was just food. I still live that way, making stocks from bones and food scraps and planning to buy only what I need. That makes me an outlier, statistically speaking.
But I was in good company at the recent Food Waste Solutions Summit. Gathered at UNCA were more than 150 city officials, restaurant owners, nonprofit workers and others who want to solve our food waste problem.
How much food does the world waste?
The USDA says the United States wastes about 66.5 million tons of food, which is more than any other country, except for Australia.
The waste happens in various places — on farm fields, in restaurants and in grocery stores. But of the massive amount of food wasted in wealthier countries like the United States, nearly half is thrown out by consumers, mostly at home. That means resources — labor, money, water — invested in food that goes right into the trash.
At the Food Waste Solutions Summit, journalist Jonathan Bloom told us that 1/7 of the population is food insecure, while 3/7 of our food is wasted. “That paradox is something that we have to fix.”
The fact that we’re throwing away food while people go hungry is obviously unjust, and there are environmental impacts as well. Bloom said that if methane-spewing food waste were its own country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, after China and the United States.
What can we do about food waste?
As shocking as those statistics are, it means we have some control over the problem. Indeed, Bloom said a lack of food knowledge is a big driver of food waste.
“For a few generations, we basically stopped cooking, we stepped out of the kitchen, and those traditional foodways were not passed down. As a result, people don’t really know how to store their food properly, where to store certain items, how to stretch their food supply, how to turn one dish into another using those leftovers.”
But that’s OK, because we’re living in the information age, with plenty of educational tools at our fingertips. Here are some tips and resources for curbing food waste.
Get more food-savvy: Don’t buy perishables in bulk unless you plan to promptly freeze what you don’t eat. Meal plan, taking into consideration who will be eating at home and when. Sound complicated? SaveTheFood.com is your friend.
Having a dinner party? Try using the site’s “Guest-Imator,” which helps you calculate how much food you need. This is particularly helpful during Thanksgiving, when food waste spikes.
Need tips to meal plan with minimal waste? The site helps you build or pick a plan, with recipes provided. It then generates shopping lists according to how many you plan to feed.
Store food properly: Did you know you need to remove carrot tops from the roots to make carrots last longer? And that the best way to store asparagus is like you would flowers: with the stems in water? Learn how to extend the life of your produce, meat and dairy with SaveTheFood.com’s storage tips.
Make stuff with your scraps: Onion ends, carrot tops, celery butts, shrimp shells and bones can all be saved for stock, which you can then freeze. A chicken frame, for example, should make a gallon of stock.
Learn to compost: There are plenty of online and printed resources to help you learn how to compost your food into soil. But if you don’t have the time and space for all that, CompostNow, Compost Asheville and WormaCulture can do it for you.
How do you become a food waste warrior? If you simply consider food waste at all, you’re doing better than most. I’ve spent many hours looking into the topic this year, so expect to hear more in the future. Have questions? Resources to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read or Share this story: https://www.citizen-times.com/story/entertainment/dining/2019/11/19/food-waste-warrior-holiday-season-these-tips-and-tricks/4202235002/