Stefanie Sacks, MS, CNS, CDN is a Culinary Nutritionist who works hands-on with individuals and groups in transition to a healthier way of eating as a food counselor, nutrition educator and chef instructor. She has been studying food and healing for 25 years, has her Masters of Science in nutrition from Columbia University, is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist and is a graduate of The Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts. In 1999 she launched her private practice working one on one to help prevent illness and restore health through personalized nutrition therapy and culinary guidance.
Have you ever seen Wall-E? In short, it’s a movie about a trash-collecting robot (Wall-E) that has spent his “life” collecting garbage from humans. When the movie begins, earth is ravaged with waste and no longer inhabitable. The movie’s message screams, “Hey earthlings, cut the overconsumption OR ELSE…”
When it comes to food, overconsumption is an issue for much of the industrialized world. Inherent in this excess are epidemic health issues but there is also a not-so-talked-about issue—food waste (food that is discarded even though in decent quality and fit for consumption). Do you buy more than you can eat? Do you cook more than you need? What do you do with leftovers whether dining in or out? How do you store your food—from dry goods to perishables? And how do you discard your food waste?
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year about 300 million tons of food waste comes as the result of producers, retailers and consumers discarding food that was or still is fit for consumption. This is more than the total net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and it would be sufficient to feed the estimated 870 million people hungry in the world. But to bring this message a little closer to home, American’s waste more than 40% of the food produced for consumption (an annual cost of more than $100 billion). I don’t know about you, but I find these statistics quite staggering.
The United Nations recently launched a global food waste campaign, Think.Eat.Save in support of the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge. Hunger can be eliminated in our lifetime and everyone can play a critical role in making this happen. So peeps, this is your call to action to make a difference. With a few simple changes, the paradigm can shift.
Talking “shop” with my clients and public at large means teaching them how to buy food, prepare food, store food and manage waste. Let’s call it conscious consumption. Since wasting food typically occurs at the retail and consumption stages, we can all do a little better. So here are some amazing tips compliments of The National Resource Defense Council and WRAP UK. I could put them in my own words, but why re-invent the wheel! We are all working towards the same goal…
Plan meals, use shopping lists and avoid impulse buys. Don’t succumb to marketing tricks that lead you to buy more food than you need, particularly for perishable items. Trust me, the excess more often than not goes to waste.
Buy Funny Fruit
Many fruits and vegetables are thrown out because their size, shape or color are not “right”. Buying these perfectly good funny fruit, at the farmer’s market or elsewhere, utilizes food that might otherwise go to waste. I don’t know about you, but I always love the underdog.
Understand Expiration Dates
In the US, “sell-by” and “use-by” dates are not federally regulated and do not indicate safety, except on certain baby foods. Rather, they are manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. Most foods can be safely consumed well after their use-by dates. You can’t always judge a book by its cover!
Zero Down Your Fridge
Eat food that is already in your fridge before buying more or making something new; this saves time and money. Follow storage guidance to keep food at its best. Websites such as www.lovefoodhatewaste.com can help you get creative with recipes to use up anything that might go bad soon.
Say Freeze and Use Your Freezer
Frozen foods remain safe for extended periods of time. Freeze leftovers whether from a home cooked meal or from a restaurant. Fresh produce can be frozen too. For example, bag the bananas (unpeeled) and berries—a great treat or an ingredient in smoothies.
Request Smaller Portions
Restaurants will often provide half-portions upon request at reduced prices. Bigger is not always better! Also, when at home, only take what you will eat. You can always have seconds.
Composting food scraps can reduce climate impact while also recycling nutrients. For many, composting seems a little scary. I admit that I am not 100% there yet, mostly due to space. But, I came across Composting for Dummies, a great resource. Whether under the counter or on top composting is a fairly simple task. And, I might add that there are some pretty chic countertop composts.
Use FIFO (First in First Out)
Check your pantry. Cook and eat first what you bought first. Store newly bought canned goods at the back of the cabinet. Keep older ones in front for easy access.
Tonight’s leftover roasted chicken can be part of tomorrow’s sandwich. Diced older bread can become croutons. Be creative! Ask your restaurant to pack up your extras so you can eat them later. Freeze them if you don’t want to eat immediately. Very few of us take leftovers home from restaurants. Don’t be embarrassed to do so!
Non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food can be donated to local food banks, soup kitchens, pantries and shelters. Local and national programs frequently offer free pick-up and provide reusable containers to donors such as City Harvest.
Even if you make good on only ONE of these directives, you are making a difference, so pat yourself on the back! Reducing your “foodprint” will create positive change now and in years to come. And by doing so, you will also SAVE MONEY, SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT AND ERADICATE HUNGER.
So, if I piqued your interest I urge you to pass this information onto family, friends and colleagues. Also, check out Jonathan Bloom’s Wasted Food—he brings the global issue home to America!
Let’s keep this conversation going. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear from you!