OPINION: Eating produce or producing waste?

Kelly Burgess

Kelly Burgess


I don’t want to know how many pounds of food are thrown away each day. Consider all the leftover food from restaurants, households, hotels and hospitals; I am sure the numbers are astronomical. According to Feeding America, $165 billion of food is wasted every year in the United States, yet somehow one in eight Americans struggle with hunger. The irony of this makes my heart and probably most people’s wallets hurt. The numbers are daunting, but we can make a difference by working to reduce our food waste starting at home.

Do you throw away food items as soon as the “sell-by” date rolls around? Are you willing to cut out a soft spot, then eat the rest of an apple? Do you hesitate to buy fresh produce with the fear that it will be past its prime before you ever decide to cook it? All of these questions have one ingredient in common: how much of your food ends up in the trash can untouched.

Other than simply filling up the garbage can with unconsumed food, creating food waste is an economical issue as well. Food costs money to grow, package, and transport, not to mention the money you spent to purchase it. Now can you see why food in the garbage can makes my heart hurt a little bit?

The real reason why I am always disappointed to see food gone to waste is because wasting food is almost always preventable by simply thinking ahead. A little creativity is all it takes to turn an overripe fruit into a tasty treat.

Fruits that seem to have seen better days are the perfect candidates for all types of sweet concoctions. Bananas are best for breads and smoothies when they are a little soft and easily preserved by peeling and storing in the freezer until you are ready to use. Simply blend one with a splash of milk for a healthy ice cream alternative. All kinds of fruits are wonderful ingredients for breads and smoothies and add nutritional benefits as well.

Vegetables are also never too far gone. Soft spots are easily removed on vegetables that will be cut into smaller parts anyway. Stir-fry, baked veggies over pasta or rice and soups are all opportunities to clean out the produce drawer and make something new.

Even bread-type items can be given a longer life with the proper storage techniques. I love to buy bakery bread on the “Oops, we baked too much” rack and put it in the refrigerator or freezer until I am ready to use it. This keeps it from becoming moldy and allows you to enjoy at your own pace.

If you are trying to eat “healthy,” you may have noticed that fresh foods seem to go bad most quickly. Don’t lose heart thinking that eating healthy means producing piles of food waste. The freezer is your friend and frozen veggies and fruits have just as many nutritional benefits as their fresh counterparts. Remember to freeze and get creative with your produce; eliminating food and money waste can start with you.