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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

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(913) 715-7000
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Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

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Preventing Food Waste

Focus on Your Waste — Not Waist — This New Year

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Some people, including myself, like to make New Year’s resolutions, but others find resolution-making a defeating process, especially when the resolution involves one’s diet or exercise. This year, however, consider a different health resolution that will impact not only your health but also your wallet and the environment.

Rather than focus on how food affects your waist in 2016, focus on how your food contributions influence your waste. The USDA estimates that approximately 1/3 of the food available in the United States is wasted on an annual basis. This is a shameful statistic, especially when the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one out of nine individuals will suffer from undernourishment.

Now I’m suddenly having a flashback. I’m twelve and sitting at the dinner table with a plate full of food and the grown-ups are threatening that I better eat every morsel on that plate because there are starving children in China.

Please be advised, forcing yourself or your loved ones to “clean your plates” will not fix the world’s hunger problem — or even our nation’s food waste problem. Here are some healthier and more sane suggestions from the USDA:

  • Shop your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  • Plan your menu before you go shopping and buy only those things on your menu.
  • Buy only what you realistically need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
  • Be creative! If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons and beet tops can be sautèed for a delicious side dish. I once heard in an interview how the revered chef Jacques Pepin used the remnants of a sandwich to stuff a pork loin and the reporter said it was the best pork loin he’d ever eaten.
  • Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables, especially abundant seasonal produce. Don’t know how to preserve food? Then, look for our classes later this year! Send me an email to be put on our food preservation classes waiting list, and I’ll let you know when they’re scheduled so you won’t miss them: crystal.futrell@jocogov.org
  • At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for your next meal.
  • At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.

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