Decreasing Food Waste: Habits For Good Health, Environment And Pocketbook
About 40% of food produced or sold in the United States is never eaten. This is equivalent to 20 pounds of food per person per month, which means Americans are throwing out $165 billion of food each year. At the same time, 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger. While food waste is an ongoing issue, the COVID-19 pandemic increases the need for Americans to learn more about ways to prevent food waste as many in our community are laid off work with fewer resources to purchase foods and individuals sheltering at home with decreased access to food. Food in the garbage equals money in the garbage. Overbuying and overproduction are two of the most common reasons of food waste. The following are ways to avoid food waste:
¯ Plan meals. First, check your pantry, fridge and freezer to avoid buying what you already have. Then think about what you are buying and when it will be eaten. Create a shopping list and stick to it.
¯ Avoid impulse and bulk purchases, especially foods that have a short shelf life.
¯ Know the meaning of date labels. “Best if Used By” is a standard phrase used to indicate when a product may be at its best flavor and quality. Consumers should examine foods for spoilage if beyond the stated date. If changes in color, consistency or texture are noticed, consumers may want to avoid eating the product.
¯ Avoid “over packing” your refrigerator. Cold air must circulate around foods to keep them properly chilled.
¯ Check your fridge often to keep track of what you have and what needs used. Eat or freeze foods before they go bad. Use your freezer to store foods until you are ready to eat them.
¯ Do not buy more food than can be used before it spoils.
¯ Store food in the right places. FoodSafety.gov has fridge and freezer storage charts to provide you with a complete guide to how long food will keep in your pantry, fridge, or freezer.
¯ Save your leftovers. Then freeze a portion of the leftovers for another meal, or use the leftovers to create new recipe.
Additionally, restaurants and schools with a usually high demand for foods, especially fresh produce, are downsizing their purchasing with the mandatory shutdowns. This results in an excess of stock in the marketplace, resulting in spoilage of fresh produce.
The Office for Aging has collaborated with many non-profit community organizations as well as businesses to rescue the surplus of food with the sudden change in demand and connect this food to families in need. Food pantries and Grocery stores have delivery and curbside pick-ups to maintain social distancing practices during the COVID-19 pandemic while providing access to fresh and healthy foods. Wal-mart and Amazon accept SNAP benefits with their food delivery services.
Also, restaurants participating in the Office for Aging Dining Out Program are offering take out with the use of the Dining Out Program voucher. Contact the Office for Aging through NY Connects to get your Dining Out Vouchers and a list of participating restaurants today.