from: The Story Web
by Megan Frazer Blakemore
A few years ago, I stood in front of a bakery counter with one of my adult daughters. We drooled (figuratively) over brownies that could feed a family of four; chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies that guaranteed instant dental work; and slices of “home-made” pie.
My daughter turned to me and patted her tummy. “Waist or waste,” she wisely said.
I got the message and we continued our walk.
Back toward the beginning of this blog (11/24/15), I wrote about food waste in relation to Thanksgiving. It’s time to revisit. Here, it’s not timed to any particular holiday or event, it’s just one of many subjects (mostly out of my control) that I worry about.
I say mostly because, I *do* control what I choose to buy and how much. I can and do “talk” to other people (thanks for listening!).
But in three and a half years, I wondered what had changed.
According to an April, 2019 article published in National Geographic Magazine, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/04/people-waste-more-food-than-they-think-psychology/ more than a third of our food supply becomes garbage. The reasons are many. Overstocked grocery shelves, over-produced fresh food that won’t survive a cross-country trip even in a refrigerated vehicle, over zealous home cooks who over-buy, even with the best intentions.
In the same article, I learned that over “80 percent of food waste has been traced to homes and consumer-facing businesses.” (grocery stores, restaurants, food trucks, caterers…?) I sometimes choose the misshapen tomato or apple. If no one buys those uglies, the store will throw them out, but mostly, those fruits and veggies don’t even get to the store. Here’s how you can find them: .http://www.imperfectproduce.com Imperfect even has recipes on their site and a newsletter you can subscribe to.
Self-awareness in this arena, just like anywhere else, is hard to attain. Seventy-six percent of us think we throw away less food than the average American. Even for me, that math doesn’t add up.
Behind fruits and vegetables, left-overs is the next big category of guilt-producing waste. Left-overs really are easier, emotionally, to throw away after they have spent some weeks in the fridge getting stinky. And when I rid my fridge of those things I meant to serve but can’t identify anymore, or when I ditch the container that I’m afraid to open because of the anticipated smell, or find the jar of fuzzy jelly that has been living on the back shelf behind the ketchup for a little too long, I know I’m part of the problem.
A good place to start our “eat or toss” decision-making is a site called Eat or Toss. Find it here: https://www.eatortoss.com Besides recipes to help use up items lurking on the edge of edible, the author provides a handy food index that addresses lots of questions from “is aluminum foil- spotted food safe?” to “what is that white stuff on my baby carrots?” with pictures.
But being mindful in the first place, at the store or restaurant, is important, too.
Several years ago I bought a composter. Now research shows that people seem to let themselves off the hook because “I’m putting it in my garden, how can it be garbage or waste?” The missing pieces, of course, are the resources used to grow, harvest, bring to market, and cook what turns into that “good garden soil.”
Here’s something else: reducing food waste is a great way to help reduce the dire effects of climate change. According to Project Drawdown https://www.drawdown.org, reducing food waste is the third most impactful action anyone can take.
Fifty years and a week later, I’m still reflecting on the moon-walk. When I look at photos of Earth from space, especially the Big Blue Marble, (taken on January 1, 1994, from a NOAA satellite built by NASA, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nasacommons/9467448026/in/album-72157650236003648/) Earth’s extreme and intense beauty focuses me on global connections. We’re all in this together. People, animals, stars, oaks and palms, mosquitoes, ants, daffodils, and petunias. We all use each other’s strengths to buoy ourselves in a balance of nature that needs our protection.
From the distance of outer space, it is easy to understand that boundaries between countries are drawn by people. It is easy to imagine oceans and jungles teaming with life. Harder, though, to remember that everything is finite.
To live together, we need to work together.
-—stay curious! (and eat ugly vegetables)