By Larraine Roulston:
Reports reveal that North Americans trash over $27 billion worth of food a year, and that approximately 35% of food produced is wasted through spoilage in grocery stores, excess production at food processors or in restaurants, careless handling and during consumption. Furthermore, when food is wasted, the agricultural resources of water and soil used to produce the food as well as the energy to transport it, are also lost. In landfills, this waste is a major contributor to the production of greenhouse gases.
To comprehend these statistics, we can all recall seeing half-eaten sandwiches tossed aside. Now, digest the image of overflowing garbage containers at celebrations, sports events, hospitals, and on cruise ships. Even a fish & chips spot where the menu is predicable has its share. I interviewed the chef at this type of restaurant (seating capacity: 46 people) about his food waste. He replied, “I send all my trimmings for salad preparation to a farm and fill 6 large green garbage bags a day with unfinished meals.”
For the most part, restaurant owners want to please customers with a heaping plate of food. However, master chef Jean-Pierre Challet of Toronto’s acclaimed Ici Bistro, offers meals and wine in two portion sizes, allowing diners to order according to their own appetites.
In 1982, writer Ruth Johnson created The Creative Cook’s Recycling Book of great recipes focusing on unique casseroles and soups created from leftovers. During the same period, makers of GLAD kitchen bags published the Use-it-Up Cookbook. Unlike regular cookbooks, the190-page gem categorized various foods and listed the many ways to use them up. Here are just two of the book’s suggestions for cabbage that appear prior to its recipes for slaws:
· Add to soups, pot roasts, stews and boiled dinners.
· Parboil and stuff with hash or ground beef rice mixture.
Jonathan Bloom tackled the issue in 2010 by authoring American Wasteland — How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and what can we do about it), in which he traces food waste through all steps of the supply chain.
Initiatives are at work. Recently, the state of Massachusetts announced that by October 2014 commercial food waste disposal ban regulations will come into effect. Startup Zero Percent aims to reduce the waste epidemic by connecting companies having leftover food with charities. In Canada, Edmonton’s environmental activist and Earth’s General Store owner Michael Kalmanovitch intends to offer workshops and presentations on how to reduce food waste in the home.
Our food system cannot be fixed overnight; however, we all can change our habits. Some people might take stock before shopping, plan weekly meals and serve smaller portions. Others may simply use perishables first and be creative with leftovers. Before composting food scraps, try simmering vegetable tops and peels to make a soup broth. Engage children so they, too, can be part of the solution. When eating out, take your own doggie bag container or request a discount by ordering a smaller portion.
Larraine Roulstons is a freelance writer and the author of Pee Wee at Castle Compost http://www.castlecompost.com