Yes, America is No. 1, at least when it comes to food waste. Experts predict that our habit of throwing out billions of pounds of food every year—about half the produce grown—exacerbates both hunger and environmental problems. But unlike so many others, food waste isn’t an insurmountable problem. By making better choices about how we shop, eat and dispose of our food, each of us can do our part.
“I think people waste food because they put no value on food,” says Farah Masani, a homesteader and forager who runs a namesake farm in Wilton, CT, where she grows food for restaurants and raises ducks, chickens and bees.
In an interview with Clean Plates, Masani shared her expert tips on how we can all waste less food.
Masani recommends completely cleaning out your pantry. Donate cans and non-perishable items you don’t want to a food bank, and begin with a totally blank slate, rather than a cabinet full of items that you’re likely to continue to neglect.
Don’t Put So Much Food On Your Plate
Talk To A Farmer
Shop at a farmer’s market? Next visit, chat with one of the farmers and put a face to the name. When you chop up kale or bite into an apple, think about the person who planted it. “If you know the farmer’s face, you might be less inclined to let food rot,” Masani says. The same goes for home gardens—even a tomato plant on a window sill, Masani notes, will help in understanding how much work goes into growing food.
We can’t waste what we don’t buy, so shop for fresh food to cook and prepare over the next day or two, instead of the next week or month. “We stock our pantries with food that sits there for a very long time,” Masani says. “And when you pull it out, it’s not cherished or valued — it’s just a box coming out of a shelf to be cooked. But if people bought food for that day or the next day, there will be more connection, more conscientiousness.” If shopping every few days isn’t doable, consider partnering up with a neighbor or joining a CSA.
Look Before You Toss
Masani notes that many people throw away a lot of food that they think is bad—but often it isn’t. Her advice? Educate yourself on purchases; know what produce is in season, how to shop for it (by handling it), how long it typically lasts, how to store and freeze, and even how to pickle and preserve it.
Know Where It Goes—And Step In
Another key to conscious eating is understanding what actually happens to the food we throw away. “Make an effort to understand the supply chain of food waste management in your town, city, county—beyond just recycling and garbage centers,” Masani says. To take it a step further, and to further utilize food that would be get tossed otherwise, intercept it by gleaning and give it to those in need.
Compost Whenever Possible
Yard waste and food scraps comprise up to 30% of what we throw away and by composting the material, it can go back into the soil to help plants grow. “If people start composting, they would be more connected to the amount of food they consume and dispose of. It’s another level of awareness,” Masani says. Check with your local environmental office about compost rules in your area and get more information on getting started here. Those living in cities should look into programs like Compost Now, which picks up food waste from homes and businesses, turns it into soil, and delivers it back to the source.