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Food Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

October 23, 2020
by Greg Georgaklis

The other day, I shared with a friend that approximately 40% of the overall food supply in the United States is wasted. Her reaction mirrored my very initial one: “How is it possible?” she asked, astonished, “How can we have a food security problem and waste so much food?”

As the conversation continued, I came to reveal that, shockingly, if food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the U.S. (according to the World Resources Institute). It is this concept that has scientists who focus on climate change ranking the reduction of food waste as one of the top solutions for carbon reduction.

It is this very issue that we at Farmers To You are striving to address so as to be a part of the movement towards reducing food waste. As you may already know, we designed a regional food system-model with a plan to decrease food waste in mind. To ensure that you are receiving the freshest possible food each week alongside reducing food waste, on Monday we ask our partner producers and farmers to deliver as close to the exact amount of food that reflects your orders as possible. With this system, we generally have only just one or two vegetable bins of extra food left over – after feeding 1,300 families! At the end of a week, we have barely enough extra food left for me to plan a staff dinner for the following week! The precision is pretty amazing. 

In everyday life, there are several places for waste along the food chain that we can all focus on. Customers when at the supermarket, walk the aisles and buy, on average, about 30% more than they can consume. In general, some of this food in these large supermarket aisles is at least 2 weeks old or more. This becomes evident when the greens go bad in your fridge after about 5 days and must be composted. Another striking fact is that supermarkets have to throw away and waste 30% or more of the food they order just to keep the shelves brimming with tempting “fresh” products. On the production end, this forces farmers and producers to meet a “perfect-looking food standard” that supermarkets demand. This leads to an additional 30% of the food that farmers grow to not make it to the shelves at all.   

Don’t despair. Through the years there have been a number of initiatives that attempt to recapture food waste including charitable food system’s food shelves, “ugly produce” shares, and composting programs. All are extremely effective programs, but sadly do not provide the entire solution. To help the cause we at Farmers To You have attempted to create a system that directs the food produced by small scale farmers and producers to your table. A system that not only benefits you but our partner families, farmers, and of course the planet.  

When it comes to the food waste that happens in our homes, I’ll leave you with some things you can do to make a difference and prevent food from going bad, buying too much and or throwing it away.

Many of our Farmers To You families find that planning their meals in advance helps reduce food waste because you strictly buy what you need for each meal. On a similar note, some find it helpful to first write down their meal plan for the week and then on another piece of paper write out the ingredients they will need for each. And if or when you do go to the supermarket – bring a list and stick to it! Supermarkets intentionally make this last part exceptionally a difficult one; they spend billions of dollars on their display techniques so as to tempt you to buy more!

The next suggestion I have for you is inspired by the lessons from the many generations of cooks that have come before us. Use everything. Leave no bone unturned. Become the magician of leftovers.

Think about ways to use your vegetables when they have already started heading toward the end of their fridge life. Use them in a stock, put them on a pizza, or roast them all with some olive oil and salt! Instead of tossing meat bones to your pups, in the compost, or worse the trash, toss them in a pot for some broth. Then afterward you can toss them to your cute pups or in the compost.

Last, is one of my favorite pieces of advice on the topic that has helped me the most: keep the fridge organized! Make sure you can clearly see your ingredients for the week that way you are more likely to use them up. This may sound obvious but it took time for me to learn that if my Farmers To You weekly order comes and I haven’t eaten something yet (small chance, but it happens), I need to put the order behind the item from a week ago, so as to ensure I use it up. It’s a first in, first out philosophy.

We know that you are all thinking about how to do your part to reduce, reuse and recycle and if you have any ideas for us or other partner families, please share them – we’d love to hear them! No matter how simple, or obvious to you, others want to know about them.

This food from our farmers and producers is precious.  The work and love that goes into it are apparent by its flavor and freshness.  Let’s honor that brilliance by valuing our food and wasting nothing.

Thank you for your appreciation of food,

Greg