Food for Thought: Reducing Food Waste
|George Mertz of Patchwork Gardens CSA, delivering my Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, including a turkey grown by the Filbrun family of Maker's Meadow|
Today's post is a tangent from my typical 'how to make the most of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share produce' recipe posts, but it is equally important to me: reducing food waste.
Recently I attended the Montgomery County Food Summit [in Ohio. I grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland and went to school in Montgomery County, Virginia. There are lots of Montgomery Counties. Montgomery sure got around]. This was my 3rd year attending. The theme Hunger and the Local Food System didn't immediately make me say 'Wow! I don't want to miss this!' but I figured I'd learn something. It's always good to learn new things.
I was delighted by Barb Asberry's talk on The Perspective of Value: Food Waste in the Desert. The last time I'd listened to someone talk about municipal solid waste--part of a series of composting classes--I was NOT taking notes as fast as I could. Barbara hooked me with this:
Let's feed people. Not landfills.
Boy that sounds so simple. It's too easy to forget, when you set out your cans on trash pickup day, that your trash doesn't magically disappear. It has to go somewhere, and that usually means a landfill. My county is pretty average in the U.S., and 31% of the overall food supply is wasted. That's 133 billion pounds that could have gone to feed someone or some thing.
In our county waste stream, a bit more than one third of the solid waste is made up of pure trash, a bit more than that are things that can be recycled, and a bit less are things that can be composted. Most of the compostable material is food--it makes up 15% of the overall disposed municipal solid waste. [How do they determine this? Analyzing truckloads of trash. Fun!] Other compostable items include tissues/paper napkins, yard waste, and wood. As the pounds of food waste increase so do the pounds of trash and compostable food containers.
|Only one of these is really too far gone to eat--the smoothie that languished forgotten in the fridge.|
In my kids' lifetime, the amount of food waste in Montgomery County has more than doubled, from 6.25% in 1996 to 15% in 2014. That's crazy! It's not like people aren't going hungry here, either. We're all paying for this waste--paying by needing to buy more food, paying more people to pick up the waste, paying companies to dispose of it using more fuel and more vehicles, paying environmentally by landfills reaching capacity at a faster rate. What can you do, in addition to the obvious (menu plan, buy what you need, compost at home)?
Start at home. Do the things in front of you.
This quote, from Mother Teresa via Ambassador Tony Hall who delivered the keynote, resonated with me. One person can make a huge difference. While composting is a good idea--what about before you get to that point? Before the arugula has yellowed, before the cilantro becomes slimy? If you have usable food, feed a living thing with it.
You are probably donating to food drives this time of year. Know this--for every 24 bags of food assistance handed out in food pantries, soup kitchens, churches, shelters, etc across the United States, the federal government provides 23 of those bags [Michelle Riley, The Foodbank]. Vote to keep hungry people fed. Keep donating food. Don't forget to donate in January, April, July! Hungry people need food year round, not just during the holidays.
- Want to know where to donate? Click here for Hungerpedia, a resource which matches agencies-in-need with food donors.
I'll close with the following image. These cards were handcrafted by a Susan J of Chicago, IL. She sent them on to From Our Hearts, who sent them forward to where my spouse is deployed. To all the paper crafters who donate blank handmade cards to the troops--thank you. It means a lot and I appreciate your talents. Happy Thanksgiving!