NUTRITION: How to help cut down on food waste

METRO CREATIVE GRAPHICS

Despite living in a state where one in eight, or nearly 5.4 million people, struggle with food insecurity — the occasional or ongoing lack of access to food needed to support a healthful, active life — food waste is more rampant than ever.

Though there is enough food produced to feed everyone, the abundance of our food system does not benefit everyone across our communities.

Consumer-facing businesses and households make up a significant portion of the contributions to food waste, which means we all can play a part in finding solutions to this unfortunate problem. In fact, according to Feeding America, the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States, consumer-facing businesses, such as restaurants and supermarkets, contribute to about 40 percent of food waste. Another 43 percent of wasted food comes from households.

Between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply results in waste and food waste is the most common component in landfills. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that on average more than 1,200 calories per person per day are wasted across the country.

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This means that the amount of food wasted daily by three people is approximately enough to feed two additional people per day. Furthermore, researchers found that this discarded food is rich in vitamin D, fiber and potassium, nutrients often lacking in the American diet.

Experts believe that an important step in solving issues of hunger at home and across the globe is significantly reducing the amount of food that is wasted. Plus, there are financial and environmental benefits to reducing food waste.

Steps to take

There are steps you can take to help reduce food waste, increasing your own personal advocacy for food security within your community and beyond.

There is an emerging trend of organizations creating technologies to help individuals, families and businesses reduce food waste. The mobile application OLIO connects neighbors for the purpose of food sharing to help cut back on food waste from restaurants, shops and homes. Another app called 222 Million Tons helps with menu planning and creating grocery shopping lists based on household size.

Whether it’s produce that goes bad too soon or leftover dinner that doesn’t get eaten, identifying what food is being wasted in your home is key to making lasting improvements. Planning your household meals for the week ahead of time can help you shop for more accurate quantities of food.

Schedule in the consumption of leftovers or meals out of the home to help avoid buying too much food. Prepare recipes with highly perishable ingredients such as seafood, leafy greens and berries soon after grocery shopping to avoid it spoiling.

More reminders

Here are some other tips to reduce your personal food waste:

• When foods must be purchased in larger quantities than needed for a recipe, plan additional meals or snacks to use up the remaining food. For example, use extra spinach in smoothies, pastas, salads and eggs.

• Browse through your pantry and refrigerator to avoid rebuying food that you already have on hand.

• Freeze or preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables that are in abundance to use when they are not as readily available.

• Many fruits and vegetables produce natural gases as they ripen, which can cause other nearby produce to spoil faster. Separate and store produce accordingly to avoid overripening.

• When eating outside the home, educate yourself on the portion sizes available so you can steer away from overordering.

• When cooking recipes in larger batches such as casseroles or soups, freeze what you believe you will not be able to eat within three to four days to enjoy at a later date.

LeeAnn Weintraub, a registered dietitian, provides nutrition counseling and consulting to individuals, families and businesses. She can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.