Whether eating everything on our plates or reheating last night’s leftovers, there are many ways we can do our part to reduce the 40 percent of food in the United States that goes uneaten every year. Taking steps to reduce food waste saves water, energy and the resources to get food from a farm to your dinner table.
A useful online resource for home cooks, Savethefood.com offers practical tips to make smart decisions about buying, using, and storing food. Here are a few suggestions from the site:
- Plan meals and shop for groceries with a list.
- Designate a section in the refrigerator for foods that need to be eaten first, such as restaurant leftovers, ripening produce or foods nearing their “use by” date.
- Freeze leftovers in portions. Don’t forget to use airtight, date-labeled containers.
Especially during the summer months, backyard trees are often full of ripening fruit. Consider canning, freezing, sharing with neighbors or requesting a backyard pick from the local food rescue group Food Forward. Food Forward is Southern California’s largest food recovery organization, having recovered more than 50 million pounds of food that has been donated to over 300 agencies across eight counties.
Have too much fresh produce? Canning is a great way to preserve your food and reduce food waste in Ventura County. (Photo: JUAN CARLO/THE STAR)
“If you have surplus fruit or vegetables growing on your property that you cannot eat, please give us a call on our Fruitline at 818-530-4125 or visit our website at foodforward.org,” said Food Forward Branch Manager Jill Santos. “We can arrange for a group of volunteers to pick your trees or provide donation boxes if you wish to do the picking yourself. All donations are tax-deductible and will be distributed to residents in need.”
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Another opportunity to support food recovery is to participate in, or host, a food drive through Ventura County FOOD Share. FOOD Share serves more than 74,500 local residents each month in partnership with 190 agencies and programs. According to its website, the top five most needed food items are canned protein, cereal (non-sugar types), beans, rice (in 1- or 2-pound bags or mixes) and soups with pull-off tops. For more information about ways to support FOOD Share, call 805-983-7100 or visit foodshare.com.
In Ventura County, there are many organizations working to redistribute healthy food, which would have otherwise gone to waste, to the one in six food-insecure county residents. Earlier this year, the Ventura County Public Health Department was awarded a substantial grant from the state’s recycling agency, CalRecycle, to address edible food recovery on a countywide level. With this state-awarded funding, the county hopes to create a stakeholder network, similar to existing programs in Orange and Los Angeles counties, effectively connecting wholesome food to hungry people.
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Expect to see even more local programs in the coming months and years focused on reducing food scraps and wasted food in homes and businesses. In response to recently passed legislation, for example, Californians must reduce the volume of organics —including food waste — sent to landfills by 50 percent by the year 2020; further, there must also be a 20 percent increase in edible food recovery by 2025. Certainly, the goal of reducing food waste, while satisfying the food needs of the less fortunate, is here to stay and likely to be even more of a focus in the future.
Tobie Mitchell is with the Ventura County Public Works Agency. Eco-Tip of the Week is usually written by David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst for the county of Ventura. He can be reached at 658-4312 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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