Ask Eartha: Holiday a high season for rampant food waste
December 16, 2015
I always notice that the holidays bring a lot of food waste. I'm wondering if you have suggestions for reducing the amount of food that is just thrown out this time of year? — Victoria, Silverthorne
Thank you for your questions Victoria. You are absolutely correct, but it is not just around the holidays that food is being thrown out. In fact, forty percent of all food produced in the United Sates is wasted or thrown out each year! This food waste makes up twenty percent of landfill weight, making it the single largest municipal waste source. Wow! To approach this issue, the Food Recovery Act, (a bill introduced by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree) is taking charge by reducing the amount of food that ends up in landfills while simultaneously reducing the number of Americans who have a hard time putting food on the table.
The plan is to approach wasted food in four specific areas — at the consumer level, in grocery stores and restaurants, in schools and other institutions and on the farm. A lot of the waste that is generated at many of these levels is derived from manufacturing companies dating food inappropriately, which can lead to consumers throwing out food that is still perfectly edible. The Food Recovery Act will require manufactures that do put dates on their food to use the regulated words "Best if used by" and "Manufacturer's suggestion only."
Food waste is not only bad for the environment, but it is also bad for the economy (costing $161 billion per year). This makes it even more difficult for people to afford putting healthy food on the table. So how can you help become a piece of the solution to this pressing issue? Well, surprisingly, (or not so surprising anymore), there are several apps that are designed to help you and your family reduce food waste. Below are a few provided by Waste360 to help get you started:
1. FoodKeeper — This app helps consumers understand how different storing methods can help extend a products' shelf life. The aim is to help consumers maximize shelf life in order to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in their trash and local landfills. This application also has a calendar that reminds the user when items are likely to "go bad."
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2. FoodCowboy — Designed by brothers who struggled to find food charity organizations, this application lets the user and donor enter their food donation information (type, temperature, quantity and description), so food banks know ahead of time what they will be receiving. The donor can also search various charities, their logistical information and where and when they can accept food deliveries.
3. WasteNoFood — This may be one of my favorites! This nonprofit marketplace connects people who have excess food with those who are hungry and have insufficient supplies of food. Those who are interested in donating food can sign up and post their excess food as it becomes available. Then qualified charities within the vicinity of donors can claim the food. This is beneficial for those in the restaurant business who frequently have large quantities of unused food.
4. Spoiler Alert — Similar to WasteNoFood, this application helps organizations and companies manage their excess food and organic waste, by connecting them with organizations that can benefit from them. For instance, a grocery store with a surplus of produce can post when it is available. Nearby food charities and organizations can pick up the food in time to provide them to those in need while it is still fresh.
As you can see, there are many options out there to help you and your family connect with local charities, organizations and those who are struggling to feed their own families. Here in Summit County, there are several food banks and community dinners that will accept food donations. Try the Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) in Silverthorne and Father Dyer Church in Breckenridge for a start. If you are interested in diverting your organic waste from the landfill, join the High Country Conservation Center's Food Scrap Recycling program. The food waste is composted at the High Country Compost facility and turned into rich and nutritious compost for your lawn and garden needs. Diverting food from landfills can feed those in need, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save on landfill space, create nutritious compost, and raise awareness about our current food system. For more information, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's Food Recovery page http://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-hierarchy and keep thinking about where your food goes!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center. Submit questions to Eartha at firstname.lastname@example.org.