More people than ever are paying attention to the food they buy, whether it’s organic, local or non-processed. Meanwhile, an alarming trend is largely ignored: In the United States alone, food waste has increased 50 percent per capita since the 1970s.
Each month, the average family of four in King County throws out about 25 percent of the food and drinks they buy, because they bought too much, didn’t store it properly or didn’t eat it in time. That adds up to nearly 400 pounds of food worth more than $1,500 per year.
King County encourages residents to take the new Food: Too Good to Waste Challenge, which involves tracking the food they toss at home and trying simple strategies to waste less while saving money.
“The first step to throwing out less food is to figure out how much you’re throwing away and why,” said Karen May, project manager with King County Solid Waste Division. “Research shows most people waste much more than they think they do. Once consumers become more conscious of what they are throwing away, they can make small shifts in how to shop, prepare, store and cook food so that they waste less.”
King County is one of the first communities in the country to tackle the issue of consumer food waste – a worldwide problem with significant financial, environmental and social impacts.
“When we waste food, we also waste the water and energy needed to get that food from the farm to our plates,” May said. “Consider this: Just one slice of bread takes 10 gallons of water to get to your toaster. A single hamburger takes at least 4,000 gallons to get to your grill.”
Food waste also makes up the largest percentage of what ends up in King County’s Cedar Hills Regional Landfill. And while King County encourages composting food rather than throwing it out, it’s better to not waste it in the first place. The greenhouse gas emissions in King County that result from food consumption (from farm to plate) are second only to emissions from personal transportation.
This week, a group of Kirkland families will kick off King County’s 2014 Food: Too Good to Waste Challenge campaign with the help of PCC Natural Market’s Chef Jackie Freeman. The neighbors will share the food that went to waste in their homes over the previous week and Chef Jackie will cook a community meal using ingredients from food they would have tossed out.
Together the group will demonstrate how proper shopping, preparation and storage techniques can prevent food from going to waste.
• Shop your fridge and cupboards before you head to the store to avoid buying food you already have. • Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time. • Store bananas, apples and tomatoes by themselves and store fruits and vegetables in different bins. • Learn the difference between "sell-by," "use-by," "best-by" and expiration dates.
For more tips, tools and recipes, and information about how to take the challenge, visit recyclefood.com. The program will also be providing community outreach on selected dates at the Issaquah, Lake Forest Park and Renton farmers markets this summer. For a list of dates, visit recyclefood.com.