Would you feed your family with food you dug out of the trash? If you knew where to look, you might consider it. The Food Network recently aired The Big Waste to draw attention to the problem of food waste in the U.S.
Chefs Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, Anne Burrell, and Alex Guarnaschelli were assigned the task of creating a gourmet banquet using only food that was destined for the trash, or in some cases, already in the trash. Sounds disgusting, right? It was, but not in the way one might expect.
From restaurants to farms to grocery stores and, yes, into the dumpsters the chefs went in search of discarded food items. The teams had no trouble locating an abundance of food -- perfectly edible food -- even appetizing food -- all considered trash and almost all of which was approved by a health inspector.
The resulting meal was glorious, but the aftertaste is hideous. So many hungry people; so much food unceremoniously dumped into the garbage and left to rot. "Food waste" is too kind a term.
According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
2010 Hunger and Poverty Statistics from Feeding America:
"Small, incremental steps can result in big differences -- and we need to do more than simply spark debate about this topic," said Steven Jilleba, CMC executive chef, Unilever Food Solutions North America. "As an industry, we need to look at stock management, menu flexibility, portion sizes, and many other elements involved in the journey from farm to fork in order to be able to begin tackling this problem."
Start from the Kitchen
Whether cooking at home or dining out, there are several ways individuals can cut down on food waste. Unilever Food Solutions provides these tips:
Know your farmer, know your food, know your store
Chef George Vutetakis, founder of Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak, Michigan, author of the vegetarian cookbook, Vegetarian Traditions, and the new Director of Research and Development at Garden Fresh Salsa in Ferndale, Michigan adds:
"My mantra is ‘know your farmer, know your food.' Often, we make the mistake of purchasing products because of price or convenience, which can lead to moldy or flavorless produce, rancid nuts, stale grains and oats, etc. These items wind up in the trash and cause our grocery bills to add up. All this can be avoided by purchasing from trusted farmers at farmers markets.
"In colder climates, it is not always possible to buy directly from one's local farmer, so ‘know your store.' Get to know your neighborhood stores and what they specialize in. It may cost a little more up front, but plenty will be saved in the long-run."
Do you have edible food in your kitchen that is destined for the trash? Before you lift the lid on your garbage can, consider donating it to a food bank near you: Feeding America Food Bank Locator.
Image Source: EPA
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of "No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis." She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and writes for sites around the web.
I cannot agree more on the point about "know your farmer, know your food, know your store". The CSA model is a great example. Not only are you getting the freshest organic offerings, you are also helping to reduce waste. Your farmers know ahead of time what their customers like and at what amount. Just like the Japanese famous pull manufacturing system that had helped to build the nation into an industrial power, this in-demand system is best for the consumers and the environment.
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