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Monday, November 12, 2012

FOOD WASTE - HOW IT AFFECTS US

When I go to the grocery store, I'm continually amazed at the quantity of foods - acres of vegetables, meats, cheeses, canned goods and cereals.  Think dairy isles as long as a bus and banana displays the size of a Prius.  It's hard for me to fathom how much food is actually in the store.  What is also hard for me to fathom though is how much of this food might be wasted, especially when the USDA reported that almost 15% of our households were 'food insecure at least some time during 2011.'  Yet, according to the National Resources Defense Council, as a nation we toss up to 40% of our food supply every year.

How does this affect US?
  • The NRDC reports that about 25% of our fresh water and 4% of our oil in this country are used to produce food that is never eaten.  These are valuable resources that could be used elsewhere.
  • A typical family of four trashes about $2,275 worth of food annually - another estimate from the NRDC.
  • Per the EPA, in 2010 we generated more than 33 million tons of food waste, and this waste was also the largest component of solid waste reaching our landfills.
  • As food decomposes in landfills it generates methane, a gas that contributes to global warming.  The EPA estimates that landfills generate 20% of all methane emissions. 
What steps can you take to reduce food waste?
  • Compost - it's easy to do and is so beneficial to gardens, improving the soil and reducing the need for water and fertilizers.
  • Plan meals and what to buy at the grocery Avoid buying food that your family may not eat.
  • Cook only what you need and plan to use leftovers for lunches and snacks.
  • Leftovers may also be appreciated by elderly neighbors who live alone - its also a great way to help them stay connected with others in the community.
  • Do not purchase more food than your family will consume before it goes bad.
  • At work, store leftover refreshments (donuts, bagels, pizza, etc.) from meetings and gatherings promptly to keep them fresh.
  • Practice safe home food storage in the refrigerator, freezer, kitchen and pantry - ensure food is stored at the proper temperatures and in quality, food safe containers.
  • Look for ways to creatively use food rather than tossing it.
  • Become informed about how long you can safely store various foods.
  • Use the food in your home before it goes bad.
  • Donate excess food to local charities, shelters and food banks.
  • Having a big event, such as a wedding, reunion or office party?  Make arrangements ahead of time to donate leftovers.
What else can you do?

Take time to make a difference in the lives of others by reaching out to your local food bank or other charity, even if it is just to assist with one event.  There is always more to do that hands to do it, and your efforts will be appreciated!

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