Teaching Food Waste and Hunger without Worrying Your Child

Teaching Food Waste and Hunger without Worrying Your Child

In the springtime, a mother asked me, “How do I teach my child about food waste and hunger without worrying or shaming her?” Well, I didn’t have the answer, but I now have a way to at least start the conversation. In honor of Hunger Action Month, read on to learn about nutrition student and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine volunteer Hannah Husby’s recommendations to turn extra food into meals for others. –Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD and Mom

Photo Credit: jbloom via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jbloom via Compfight cc

Ideas for Food Rescue Hannah Husby, Nutrition Student, NYU   While we worry a lot these days about all the food we are eating, we should consider turning our positive attention to food we may be wasting. Of course, everyone wastes food from time to time; it’s easy to want to buy all the beautiful produce at the farmer’s market, only to find you bought too many peaches—and the last two became rotten before you could eat them! (For tips on how to avoid this, see this post.) This waste tends to be more annoying than anything for us, but for those that face issues with food insecurity, having that peach before it gets soft could make a difference between going to bed hungry or not. Short of eating everything in your fridge right now so none of it goes to waste, what can be done to help? It actually takes a surprisingly small amount of time to make a difference. Big cities across the country can use help feeding their homeless and secure food, and this can make an incredible impact. Here are a few places to check out in New York City:

City Harvest – Known for everything from food rescue to nutrition education, City Harvest has served New York for over thirty years and continues to eliminate food waste every day.

Rescuing Leftover Cuisine – A smaller and recently created non-profit, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine also aims to feed the hungry by taking donations from restaurants and businesses, no matter how small, and can always use volunteers to transport this food directly to shelters and pantries.

Food rescues can also be found all over the country by checking out Feeding America, but if there are no rescues in your community, you can actually create your own with the help of City Harvest!   Volunteering, even just an hour or two a week, can do wonders not only for the community you live in, but also for yourself, connecting you more with those around you and creating a fresh perspective on those day-to-day complaints we all face. And it certainly helps you appreciate how wonderfully delicious those peaches are!

Join the Challenge on Food Waste

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 3.43.39 PMHave you ever looked into your refrigerator and noticed the dried out carrot sitting in the back of the fridge, or the wilted lettuce you forgot you bought 2 weeks ago (let’s face it, we’ve all been there at least once!) At some point or another, we had the intention to eat it but whether we didn’t know what to make with it or simply forgot, the end result is often the same: the waste bin.

Even as a fairly seasoned cook in the kitchen, I must admit that I often have difficulty deciding what to make with the kale I bought last week or how to reinvent leftover, steamed rice. And if you are fairly new to cooking, it can be especially difficult knowing which cuts of meats can be reused or which veggies can be stored for another meal. But when there’s no way to salvage the spoiled produce or forgotten leftovers, the reluctant answer is to toss it. While any food you toss away may seem like a small quantity, individual food waste adds up and contributes to a much larger issue at hand, and that includes damage to the environment and loss of resources.
Food waste occurs when food makes it to the end of the supply chain, i.e. the consumer, but doesn’t actually get consumed. It is a major issue in the United States. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture reports that in 2010, combined sources of food waste in the U.S., including from stores, restaurants, and homes contributed to an estimated 133 billion pounds of uneaten food–that’s a value of approximately $161 billion dollars.
In America, nearly 40 million tons of food waste is sent to landfills every year. Food waste in landfills produces methane gas, which is more harmful to the environment than CO2 gas. Moreover, the amount of resources it takes to produce the food (whether it be vegetables, fruit, or meat) takes up a ton of energy. There are many ways in which we can eliminate the waste in landfills. From the farmer to the food companies, grocery store, restaurant, and consumer, there are many opportunities to join the challenge on food waste.
Join the Challenge on Food Waste
Think about how easy it can be to reduce food waste in your daily life. If we work together, all of our actions (yes, even the small changes we make) can impact the environment on a larger scale. So what are you waiting for? Join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge now and to start you off, here are some activities you can undertake to practice reducing food waste.
Shop Your Kitchen First – Before heading out to the market and purchasing more food, check out your fridge, freezer and pantries to see what you can make with the ingredients you already have.
Plan Your Meals – Step into the grocery store with a list in hand. This will not only cut down the amount of time you spend in the store, but it will also reduce the chances of impulse buys or foods you won’t actually consume.
Shop Smart – Buy only the amount that you need. If you’re making soup for 2 tonight, do you need 1-2 carrots or an entire bag? If you buy the whole bag, will you actually eat them all? For grains, try out the bulk section where you can measure out exactly how much rice or quinoa you’ll need that week. If you’re trying out new grains, seeds or dried fruit, the bulk section may be the way to go. this is also a good way to measure out a small portion in case you may or may not like the new grain or seed. Since perishables go bad rather quickly, resist buying more especially if you haven’t already used up the ones in your fridge.
First In First Out – The concept of FIFO is exactly as it states– first in first out! When unpacking groceries, organize them so that foods with the earliest expiration date are moved to the front. Foods with a later expiration date, or are least likely to go bad first, should be moved to the back of the refrigerator or pantry. This practice will increase your chances of using the foods before they go bad.
Tune Into Your Body – Tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues so that you can determine how much you want or are able to eat during meal/snack times. Remember, if you’re full and have leftovers, you can always save them.
Donate Excess – Have any wholesome, packaged goods that you haven’t or won’t be eating? Donate them to food banks, soup kitchens, or look into donating to other awesome organizations like God’s Love We Deliver. Not only will you be reducing food waste, but you’ll be doing social good by helping others in need. Just be sure to check the expiration date before donating, as many places have stringent inspections on the donated goods they receive.

To learn more about food waste in the United States, tune into registered dietitian Laura Cipullo on Why Do We Waste Food?

 

Are there other activities you practice to help reduce food waste? We’d love to hear your ideas!