With all the news about the obesity epidemic, not cleaning your plate is the motto of the day…or is it? I was startled to read that about 40% of food produced in the U.S. isn’t consumed. If thrown in the trash or left to rot or provide a haven for bacteria in your fridge, it eventually goes into landfills. Once there, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide.
Our underutilized agriculture products and undigested food is contributing to global warming. Combine this effect with that of the oil needed to get the food to us. Oil is sucked out of the earth’s heart to plant, harvest, manufacture, (think genetically modified foods), prepare for consumers, package, transport, take to landfills and recycling plants. 2% of America’s energy consumption is due to producing food that is not eaten.
Landfills are engorging our planet’s digestive system even more than they should due to the food going into them daily. According to Jonathan Bloom’s book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of It’s Food (and What We Can Do About It), an average family of four throws approximately $1,350 each year into their kitchen trash can. If half that amount were donated to feed the poor, over 700 meals would be provided. Think about that the next time you toss out food.
So what can you do about it? These are a few of Jonathan’s suggestions:
1. Plan in advance what to buy at the grocery store for consuming that week. Stick to your list when you shop. Write a list that reflects that week’s meals. Each week is different!
2. Keep your portions appropriate to the person receiving them. don’t use the boxes recommendations, think about how much your family eats.
3. Change your opinion about leftovers. Learn to use them and enjoy having leftovers available! this is one way to spend less time in the kitchen preparing food. Or you can freeze half of what you made before serving it. If you like to cook, make the leftover food into a new taste treat- be creative, take a chance, it’s just one meal.
4. Compost. Now this was really interesting to me. I equated landfill decomposing with composting until I read this. “Composting, whether by backyard, worm, or Bokashi bin or the indoor NatureMill, creates a usable soil amendment rather than methane. That way you return your food’s nutrients to the soil instead of just throwing them away.”
Humanitarian non-profit food pantries across the U.S. are starving for food. More people are accessing their local pantries than ever before in our lifetimes, except for those who lived through the Great Depression. Children need nutrition to be able learn in school, parents need nutrition to be able to work. People need the food we are thoughtlessly tossing out as if it were dirty fish tank water.
You can read more of Jonathan’s thoughts on his blog Wastedfood.com and his book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)