In The News
Fighting Food Waste
According to the USDA, over one-third of available food in the United States goes uneaten through loss or waste. “This waste adversely impacts food security and the environment. When food is tossed aside, so too are opportunities for healthier communities, economic growth, and environmental prosperity.”
Another source estimates that 90 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the United States. Are you having a hard time imagining the true weight of that? Think about the weight of the Empire State Building and multiply that by 123; 90 billion pounds. This estimate does not include the food that goes uneaten at the grocery store or the crops left in the farmers’ fields.
Food waste occurs when an edible food goes uneaten and can occur in a variety of ways. We have all seen plates still full of food after a family leaves a restaurant buffet or maybe a store owner cannot sell an “ugly” carrot. About 40 percent of the U.S. food supply goes uneaten. Not all food waste can be saved or even eaten, but a lot of it can be prevented, especially at home. In fact, half of the uneaten food is thrown out in homes and foodservice.
Better meal planning and careful food storage will help prevent food waste. Start with planning. Look at the food you have on hand and plan your weekly menu. Buy only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days. While shopping, be sure to shop for the refrigerated and frozen foods just before checking out. Perishable foods should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of shopping.
Let’s talk leftovers. These can certainly be money-saving, but they can just as easily be food-wasting. Check your refrigerator temperature – by keeping it at 40° F. or below, food will stay fresh longer. Proper storage of food and extra ingredients prevents food waste. Leftovers should be wrapped or covered while in the refrigerator to prevent drying out. Some fruits and vegetable require refrigerated storage, while others can be left at room temperature. Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days or can be frozen for up to three to four months. If you suspect a food or drink has spoiled, do not risk eating or drinking it.
Another way to cut down on your food waste it to be mindful of portion sizes. MyPlate has recommendations for proper portion sizes. If you are interested in learning more about MyPlate, please call one of our extension offices. Order smaller sizes of foods and drinks when going out to eat or request a to-go container.
Cutting our own food waste is something each of us, as global citizens in a hungry world, can work on. Being aware of our food habits is an important first step.
Information obtained from www.choosemyplate.gov, K-State Research and Extension, and eat right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
~Jessica Kootz, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent