Earlier this year, chefs Dan Barber, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura, and Danny Bowien, appeared in a documentary called Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. According to the film, globally, 1.3 billion tons of food are thrown out each year, a third of which never even makes it to people’s plates.
This is bad news for the earth, for the farmers and growers and pickers, for the animals, for the grocery stores and farmers’ markets, for the chefs and the restaurant staff, and for the people who could benefit from eating the food. Not only that, but food waste also takes a toll on our earth and on our environment.
The issue of food waste is especially important for the disability community because wasted food is wasted energy, time, and money: three things that this community often lacks.
As stated by Food and Disability Studies scholar and DisabilityFEAST advisor, Elaine Gerber, “People with disabilities in the U.S. are over-represented in poor communities where food insecurity is common. This means there are more disabled people in areas where people struggle to get enough to eat, and to eat well, than there are in the general population. Disabled people are also more likely to experience additional access barriers to getting food. And, they are more likely to experience negative consequences of being food insecure–due both to pre-existing conditions and their marginalized status in society.”
The film, Wasted!, discusses creative solutions to food waste, such as feeding scraps to livestock, turning large events’ leftovers into delicious meals at soup kitchens, creating renewable energy at factories, and producing compost for school gardens.
There are also some smaller steps we can each take to cut down on food waste:
- Buy just what you need: Plan out what you will cook for the week and make a grocery list before you go to the store. When you go to the store, avoid impulse purchases. To avoid impulse purchases, don’t shop on an empty stomach.
- Compost your food scraps: Did you know that a single head of lettuce can take 25 years to decompose in a landfill? Many cities offer composting services, but if yours doesn’t, you can still compost at home. Here is a helpful website to get you started composting.
- Be mindful of portion sizes when eating out:
- Buffets can be tricky for folks with disabilities, but they often offer a lot of food for a decent price. If you find yourself at a buffet, remember that you don’t have to fill your plate. Start with a small amount and add more as you go to avoid wasting food.
- If you are eating at a non-buffet restaurant, understand that the portion you receive will probably be more than you can or should eat in one sitting. Take home your leftovers and eat them for dinner or lunch the next day.
- Get creative with your cooking:
- Make stock: Vegetable scraps and bones you’ve picked clean can be boiled in water to make delicious stock to use as the base for soups and stews.
- Freeze meals and produce: If you make one large batch of food like lasagna or stew, for example, you can freeze it in small portions that you can then take out of the freezer to warm up later in the week or the month. You can also freeze vegetables and fruits. Here is a help guide for freezing produce.
- Can produce: Canned produce from the supermarket may have added chemicals, salt, and preservatives. If you can your produce at home, you’ll know exactly what’s in each can. Here’s a website to help you learn how to can produce.
- Pickle vegetables: You can make pickled veggies taste a variety of ways just by altering the amount of sugar, vinegar, or spices you add to the mix. Here is an example recipe to get you started pickling your veggies.
- Eat ugly produce: The produce in grocery stores is held to very high aesthetic standards, but there are many ways you can purchase less perfect looking produce that would otherwise end up in landfills. Farmers’ markets are an opportunity to purchase imperfect produce, and there are several new businesses, such as Imperfect Produce, that deliver these imperfect fruits and veggies to your door at a reduced price.
For more ways to cut down your food waste, watch Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, available on iTunes and Amazon now.