A year of less food wastStarting 2016 with a conversation about garbage isn’t exactly the sexiest way to launch into the New Year. But the subject of food waste is an important, if overlooked, topic. We live in a society where plenty of people don’t get enough to eat while hundreds of thousands of pounds of food gets dumped into landfills each day.

What does any of that have to do with you? A lot. Just as each of us can have an impact on water conservation or child nutrition, we can also make a dent in food waste. I’ve come to see my own bad habits — overbuying, not making better use of what’s on hand — and have been working to minimize what lands in the trash versus on the table. Now it’s time to share a thing or two about food waste here on Mom’s Kitchen Handbook. For help, I turned to Grace Voorheis, a dietetic intern with a master’s degree in agriculture. She took the lead on a three-part series on the subject, starting with the post below.

2016: A Year of Less Food Waste 
by Grace Voorheis

Along with resolute promises to be better to our bodies in the New Year, some of us might be considering what we can do to be better to the planet.  Food waste is an excellent place to turn.  According to the USDA, 90 billion pounds of food is wasted every year in homes or restaurants. That’s about 30 percent of the overall food supply if you include what’s wasted at grocery stores, too.

All of this garbage takes a huge toll on the environment. Growing far more food than gets eaten has an impact to be begin with. And then that wasted food ends up in landfills where it breaks down, producing greenhouse gas, which further contributes to climate change. 

Taking a look at your family’s food waste seems like an especially good idea now, coming on the heels of  big holiday meals followed by nights spent staring into the refrigerator wondering,  “what the heck am I going to do with all this food?” Not to mention the thoughts of families less fortunate who could benefit from the food that doesn’t get tossed into the garbage.

While this may seem like a major issue —and it is—at least it’s one that we can each do something about.  For the next few weeks, we’ll look at making 2016 as a time to reduce our food waste foot print. Bring your family into the conversation as we share tips and ideas, and even a “no waste” recipe to get you started. In the meantime, here are three direct benefits of focusing on food waste. 

Saves Money — Planning a little better, making use of your freezer for foods on the verge of expiring, and being clever with what you have, can all add pad your pocketbook over the long haul.  

Positively Impact the Environment — Producing less waste in your home means less food in landfills. In San Francisco, we have a robust city-wide composting program. Perhaps that’s something to explore in your area (or your own backyard) as well.  

Helps Feed Your Community  — When you have unopened food you know you won’t eat (I find this especially the case after the holidays) donate it to your local food pantry, food drive, or food bank. Here you’ll find more information on where to donate and this Food Bank Locator may come in handy as well. 

Stay tuned. Part two of this series is coming soon.