Stop Food Waste and Help Save the Planet

Food Waste is a major contributor to green house gases and sadly 30-40% of our food is wasted at all different points in the food system. 

On the farm - Gleaning programs are getting more popular.  What are they?  They are usually run by non-profits in coordination with local farmers.  Volunteers go into the fields when the farmers cannot harvest all of their crops.  These perfectly healthy and delicious food items are then provided to people in need.  

In retail stores - Most retailers carefully plan food purchases and inventory to avoid loss.  But when they do have excess food, they usually donate it to local charities.  This help support food pantries serving low-income workers, senior citizens and others in need.

At home - Consumer food waste at home can be addressed by planning meals and shopping carefully, eating leftovers and composting.  My stuffed peppers were made with leftover rice from take out, a small amount of ground beef, peppers and homemade sauce.  When planning meals, consider how leftovers can be re-purposed and save money while helping the planet! 

September, It's back to School Lunch

Did you know that the National School Lunch program was started as a matter of National Defense and Security?  It was apparent when young men were being recruited to fight in WWII that the Great Depression had caused nutrition related deficiencies and health problems. Potential recruits weren't fit to fight! So the program was started as a way to assure a healthy, well-nourished citizenry, healthy enough to fight in our Armed Forces!  

Today, I think we still need the program, because hungry kids can't learn. When they have enough foods of high quality, they cost society less in health care and in the long run are more productive citizens. These programs provide jobs in the schools, and contribute millions (maybe billions) of dollars to the economy through the food industry (farmers, manufacturing plants, transportation, distribution, etc). More farm to school and school garden programs encourage all ages to eat healthier.  Starting healthy habits as youngsters is much easier than changing habits as adults.  This program, like other food and nutrition programs, winds up saving more than it costs.

While I do think these are tax dollars well spent, there's always aspects that can be debated. When the school lunch program started in the 1940s, it was meant to support students from all income levels.  Is that still needed today?  Could some families, of means, be asked to pay another 10-25 cents a meal?  Could the cost of a reduced price lunch (which has been 40 cents for years) be raised?  

We need the program, but this is one area both sides of the political aisle could negotiate on the details. Perhaps there is a way to ensure children from lower-middle and low-income families can get free and reduced price lunches while keeping the programs viable by having families of higher means pay a little more.  

Many people criticize the meals in schools lunch, if you are one of them, you may be familiar with today's school lunch programs.  Foods are meeting higher nutritional standards while appealing to kids who expect a wide variety of food options. It's super challenging and rewarding to manage these programs!  You might want to check out what your local district is doing. I bet you'll be surprised!

Organic or not?

Do you eat 5-9 servings (that's a minimum of 2-3 cups) of fruits and vegetables a day?  If not, then get started by increasing fruits and vegetables.  Current research does not show that you will live longer eating "clean", "organic", "raw"....but it does show you'll live longer if you eat more fruits and vegetables.  You don't have to become a vegetarian, just shoot for 1-2 servings at each meal and 1-2 snacks that include a fruit and or vegetable.  

If you can afford lots of organic fruits and vegetables and will eat them, go for it. If not, it's more important to get more fruits and vegetables, and get them most days than for them to be organic.