By Nichole Baldwin

Even though 15.3 million children were growing up in households without access to affordable, quality food in 2014, food waste is a prevalent and continuing problem in the U.S.  Despite the presence of convenience stores and fast food restaurants, the presence of fresh fruits and vegetables is almost nonexistent in many impoverished neighborhoods across the nation.  This fact results in obesity and exposes children to long term harm and vulnerability.  40% of food is wasted between the time it leaves the farm and reaches your fork.  This equals to more than 20 pounds of wasted food per person per month.

Food Waste doesn’t only impact our children; it has an even greater impact on our environment.  Greenhouse gases threaten our atmosphere and the methane gas produced from rotting organic material in landfills are a major source.  Landfills are the largest contributor of methane gas, which is hazardous and potentially explosive.

There are more than a few ways to reduce your food waste and end up saving you money. #1 Shop smart and realistically. Only buy what you and your family will eat. Shop more often and buy less. Stick to your list. #2 When cooking try not to over serve food. Stick to a portion size that leaves you satisfied and use smaller plates. #3 Save and actually eat your leftovers.  Label them so you know how long they’ve been in the fridge and incorporate them into your week. #4 Store food in the rights places to make them last the longest. Learn which produce needs to be refrigerated and what doesn’t. #5 Avoid clutter in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Use a “first in, first out” policy to rotate food items and remember that while freezing can be a great way to prolong the life of some food, it will eventually dry out and go bad. #6 Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines.  Trust your sense of smell, sight, and taste as opposed to strictly following these dates. Food can last much longer than it says. #7 Keep track of what you throw away. If you document your waste and consider its monetary value, you will be more aware of what you’re wasting and will strive to reduce it in the future.  #8 Donate to food banks, farms, or people with animals and gardens.  There are churches and charities that will take your food before it goes bad.  Scraps can go to those who have livestock or for composting in gardens.  People willing to take your food waste may be closer than you think.  #9 Try canning and pickling as a way to preserve food and increase its shelf life.  #10 Use helpful tools and apps to avoid wasting food.  There are many resources available that will help you create a meal with the ingredients that you have on hand.  There are also gadgets on the market that absorb the gas fruit releases when it ripens to keep it fresher for days longer. However, the rest is still up to you as a consumer. #11 Try composting. It’s a natural way to create nutrient rich fertilizer and it puts the food back into the earth.

With food prices higher now more than ever, how can you afford to not reduce your food waste? Every little bit helps your pocket book, the environment, our nation’s hungry, and the planet in general.