The battle cries in my childhood household revolved around food. First it was proclaimed, “there is no food in this house,” followed shortly by a shopping trip and exclamations of, “there’s no room in this fridge, we need to eat!” Having a father who grew up very poor, having an abundance of food was a demonstration of our economic status as firmly in middle class. When my mother was preparing a meal she would usually add more at the last minute, she wanted to make sure all 6 hungry faces had enough to eat. Consequently, there was food that got wasted either through being buried in the fridge or having too much on the table. I’m realizing my situation was probably not unique.
I say I think I am not in a unique situation, because it is estimated that approximately 30-40% of all the food raised, processed, transported and served ends up in the landfill. That is a lot of food being wasted! The nations landfills have one big bellyache from all of this wasted food. If it just stopped there it could be a funny image.
However, growing this food uses valuable resources of nutrient in the soil and water. Once discarded to the landfill it emits a huge amount of methane that contributes to climate change. If you are a bottom-line kind of thinker, the estimated amount of money it cost the nation to haul the 32 million metric tons of waste to the landfill is $1.5 billion to our local communities. These facts are all troubling.
What can we do about the waste? For one we can plan better. There are stores that encourage you to buy huge quantities. As a rule of thumb, only buy what you plan to eat. Instead of buying quantity, focus on the quality of the food. Also, if you do end up with excess, find a neighbor with a pig. This is a win-win situation. Another contributing factor to waste is confusing sell by dates, especially on milk and dairy products. In fact, Maine’s own Chellie Pingree has introduced a food-labeling bill to help make it clearer so less food is ultimately wasted when it is still perfectly good to eat. We can all cut-down, it just takes a little planning and being thoughful. When it comes to the planet, we are all in this together.
Kate Goldberg-Nutrition Educator at Healthy Oxford Hills which is a project of Stephens Memorial Hospital.
Reprinted with permission from the Advertiser Democrat