Earth Day is an annual event held on April 22 to show support of protecting our planet and to think about the ways each of us can make a difference. What does this have to do with food? Well, each day in the United States approximately one pound of food per person is wasted. In a year’s time, that equates to 81.4 billion pounds of food waste generated in America. To gauge that, understand that’s between 30-40 percent of the food supply, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
At the Storehouse we know that much waste is really unfortunate when so many people are going hungry. On top of that, the environmental impact is substantial. As food rots in landfills, it emits methane, a greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more potent than the carbon that comes out of passenger vehicles. Landfills are the third-largest industrial emitter of methane, with food waste alone representing 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
How You Can Minimize Food Waste on Earth Day & All Year Long
Here are few ways you can make a difference and lessen this impact. First, buy less food so you’ll waste less. Put together a detailed shopping list before you go to the grocery store by planning your meals and snacks in advance—and avoid impulse purchases. You may have a bit less in your refrigerator or pantry, but when you can see what you have, you are less likely to forget about it. Better still, you will be more likely to eat it instead of it spoiling before you do. It also helps to look over what you have on hand before you go to the store, to make sure you make use up what you have. It will save you money, maximize your food budget, and you’ll be doing your part to minimize food waste and the impact that has on our planet.
What the Storehouse Does to Help the Earth by Reducing Food Waste
We also understand the role the Storehouse can play in reducing food waste in our community. We do that in lots of ways through the food pantry operation well beyond Earth Day. Our community partners also play a part in saving and using as much food as possible.
A handy chart, developed by the EPA, showing the Food Recovery Hierarchy, prioritizes actions businesses and individuals can take to prevent and divert wasted food. Food pantries like the Storehouse play a major role in reducing food waste.
Working down the Food Recovery chart, purchasing less food in the first place, is number one. We do this by watching the flow of donated food and purchasing only what we need to fill in those gaps.
This is followed by food donations to people in need. The public does this when they give to the Storehouse. Of course, we welcome gifts of canned goods, but we also like to get excess fruits and vegetables from local gardens. We are fortunate to get donated excess food from Albertsons Market as well as various suppliers. We help use up that food that might otherwise go to waste and it benefits our families, too, which is a win-win for the community.
Third is sending food scraps to feed animals. The Storehouse does this as well, offering our items no longer fit for humans to local pig farmers, to lessen our waste. The landfill is our last resort.
Each of us must do our part, and the Storehouse must, too. Thank you to our community partners who help us with these earth-friendly initiatives.
General Earth Day Food Tips
Here are some more tips for reducing your carbon footprint regarding food.
1. Embrace the ugly fruits and veggies! So much food is wasted because it is not selected at the grocery store. Who cares about blemishes or spots? We don’t. In fact, the Storehouse gets fruits and veggies like this regularly. It all tastes the same and many issues are just skin deep. And, if you are baking, browner bananas, for example, will actually taste better than the really yellow ones.
2. The freezer is your friend. Have items you may not use up in the next several days before they go bad? Hello bulk chicken bargain pack and big box of strawberries! Freeze these goodies to use later so they won’t end up in the trash.
3. Leftovers matter. Learn to re-heat and re-use leftovers to use up everything you have prepared. Have too many veggies? Throw them in a stir fry or soup! Leftover crackers or chips can be crushed and made into breading for chicken or fish. Leftover meats or fish can top a salad or become tacos the next day. Turning leftovers into tasty new items is a great cooking skill. For ideas, there is even a Netflix show about it called “Best Leftovers Ever!”.
4. Donate excess canned goods and produce to the Storehouse. Most people know we accept canned goods, peanut butter, and other shelf-stable items, but we also accept extra fruits and vegetables. If you are a gardener and can’t eat all that zucchini you planted, bring it by!
Each of us can help the planet and reducing our food waste is a big part of that. An estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste. That could be enough to feed every undernourished person on the planet. That matters to us and Mother Nature. Thank you for thinking of the Earth and the Storehouse. Your support means the world to us!