LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Waste not, want not
Ever have a parent tell you to “eat everything on your plate because there are starving children in Africa?” I want to explain the reality of that statement in two parts.
First, “eat everything on your plate.” Food is the largest source of waste in our Country. Forty percent of the food in the U.S. is “lost” before it makes it to our table. That is, it is left in the fields or thrown away because it is imperfect or out-of-date. Of the food that makes it to our homes, anywhere from 40 to 50 percent is thrown away by the consumers, you and me. It is estimated that, for every family member, about 23 pounds of food is thrown away every month. For a family of four, that can range from $118 to $190 that is literally thrown into the trash each month.
Small changes in your home can go a long way in decreasing the amount of food you throw away and help you to save money
• Plan what you want to eat and use a shopping list with those planned items to avoid impulsive buying.
• Buy exactly what you need for the week.
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• Buy produce that is not “perfect” (e.g., a bruised tomato or oddly shaped carrot). It tastes the same and if it isn’t purchased, the store will throw it out.
• Practice FIFO (first in, first out) — move older products to the front of the refrigerator and eat them first.
• Note expiration dates and plan meals around those things that expire first.
• Put on your plate only what you will eat. Better yet, use a smaller plate, and you will probably eat less and waste less.
• Save and eat leftovers.
• Re-purpose produce that is starting to go bad (make a smoothie, for example).
• Compost food that is no longer edible.
• Store food properly to increase its shelf life.
Now, for the “there are starving kids in Africa” part. The truth of the matter is, we have about 3,180 people, 880 of them children, who are hungry in our very own Routt County. About half these people are not eligible for federal food programs such as free and reduced school meals or SNAP (food stamps). We are fortunate to have Lift-Up of Routt County, which provides food to more than 2,000 of our county residents.
If you have food in your home you are not eating, please donate it to Lift-Up. If you’re leaving town and have fruit or vegetables that will go bad, donate them to Lift-Up. The clients love produce, and it flies off the shelves when available. Better yet, buy extra jars of peanut butter, tuna, beans and canned or preferably fresh fruits and vegetables and donate them to Lift-Up.
So do eat everything on your plate, because there are hungry children in Routt County. Decrease your home food waste and donate to Lift-Up to make sure those who are hungry in our county also have healthy food to enjoy.
Barb Parnell, Ph.D., is community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.
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