Guest Post by Cindy Baumgartner, ISU Extension and Outreach Nutrition and Health Specialist.
Last June the USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, calling on everyone in the food chain to join the effort to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste.
Food waste in the United States is estimated at 30 to 40 percent of the food supply. Some of this food could be going to hungry people rather than filling up landfills and creating greenhouse gases.
According to the Iowa Food Waste Reduction Project, almost 14% of all municipally-landfilled waste is food waste making it the #1 most prevalent disposed material.
What can individuals do? Here is a list of ways to reduce wasted food from USDA. Visit the food waste reduction website for more information, www.usda.gov/oce/foodwaste/resources/consumers.htm
1: Shop your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
2: Plan your menu before you go shopping and buy only those things on your menu.
3: 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.
4: Nutritious, safe, and untouched food can be donated to food banks to help those in need.
5: 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.
6: Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away.
7: Don’t automatically throw out food that has been in the freezer longer than “recommended”. Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat. So if you find a package of ground beef that has been in the freezer more than a few months, don’t throw it out. Use it to make chili or tacos. The seasonings and additional ingredients can make up for loss of flavor.
8: Likewise, canned goods will last for years, as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling). Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will be safe past the ‘best by’ date, although they may eventually become stale or develop an off flavor. If food appears moldy or discolored, do not eat it.
For more information on what the dates on packages mean check out the ISU Extension Spend Smart Eat Smart web page at www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings.