Food for Thought: Give Thought to Food

Hi Live Green! Enthusiasts, 

It’s Isabelle, the Live Green! Social Media Engagement intern. October flew by and we hope you enjoyed hearing from students and learning about sustainability-related clubs/businesses to check out! 

November’s campaign is titled Food for Thought: Give Thought to Food. Food is such a prevalent part in all of our lives and with Thanksgiving right around the corner, we want to ensure you are equipped with the most sustainable mindset. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over ⅓ of all food produced globally goes to waste. There are easy and fun ways for us to reduce that number. Food for Thought: Give Thought to Food will provide tips, tricks, and information on combating food waste issues.

Photo courtesy of Pasadena Star-News

November’s campaign will highlight simple, doable ways to reduce food waste on the individual level. The easiest way to minimize food waste (and save money) is to plan ahead and buy only what you need. Stop Food Waste created a list of helpful tips for smart habits at the grocery store. 

This month’s campaign will also bring attention to “hacks” that save you and stores from discarding nutritious, good food. For example, most people avoid grabbing the blemished fruits and vegetables and reach for the most vibrant, fresh products. However, marred fruit and vegetables could have a higher nutritional value. Several studies have shown that imperfect produce actually has more beneficial qualities than its unscarred counterparts. Read more about the potential benefits of blemished produce on NPR’s website. 

Photo courtesy of NPR

Another misconception is related to expiration dates on products. Generally speaking, labels such as Best By, Sell By, Use By, and Expiration dates are created by manufacturers to indicate peak quality, rather than spoilage. There are actually no federal regulations associated with expiration date labelling. Because of consumers misinterpretation of labels, foods are often thrown out while they are still safe to eat. Search food on Eat By Date for information on their shelf life, tips for extending shelf life, and how to tell if it is ready for the compost bin.

Photo courtesy of Betty Crocker

Smart cooking goes hand-in-hand with smart consumption. Meal prepping, a useful method for intentionally planning your meals (allowing you to save time, money AND waste!), will also be covered in this month’s campaign. Meal prepping consists of planning and making dishes in bulk to portion out for a period of time. Download a free printable meal prep template on Meal Plan Addict. Find meal prep ideas, such as an enchilada skillet or cauliflower soup, on the Easy Family Recipes website. 

Another aspect of smart cooking is using what you already have in the pantry. SuperCook is a website and app that allows the user to input ingredients and it will generate a recipe. The only ingredients that it assumes you already have are salt, pepper and water! 

In addition to SuperCook, the campaign will also highlight Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, a movie tracking waste all the way from the farm to the consumer. You can view the trailer on Youtube. Check out the full movie on Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Youtube (for free!)!

Sometimes food waste happens because we simply get tired of leftovers. We have a solution! This campaign will introduce fun ways to use up leftover food. Leftover parties are a concept created by Jacquie Ottman, a New York City based sustainability activist, consultant, and author. Ottman describes leftover parties as, “an informal gathering of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues who bring together still edible ‘leftovers,’ potluck style, with the intention of using up what might otherwise go to waste, ad taking advantage of opportunities to socialize, save money and build community in the process.” Leftover parties eliminate the stress and waste of a gathering. Friendsgiving is the perfect opportunity to host a leftover party. And if you want the feel of something new, ‘make over’ leftovers by throwing together a dish, such as fried rice. Learn more about leftover parties and find some fried rice recipes on the We Hate To Waste website. 

And then there are the ingredients we purchase for a new recipe and likely will not need them again for a very long time. There are local options for your non-perishable ingredients! In the Ames community, Food at First is a local non-profit organization dedicated to serving daily meals to anyone who is hungry, no questions asked. You can also volunteer to help serve or cook meals or collect donated items from local businesses by signing up on their website. If you wanted to purchase some extra ingredients to support their mission, Food at First also welcomes donations. View their food “wishlist” on their website. 

SHOP, or Students Helping Our Peers, is another option. SHOP is a student-run food pick-up service committed to increasing food security. It is located on campus in 1306 Beyer Hall and everyone is welcome! Learn more about SHOP, the hours and how to get involved by visiting the Iowa State Student Organization Database

Despite our best efforts to reduce waste, food we planned to use sits for too long and goes bad or we expected to like a dish that we simply cannot eat one more day. Once food is thrown away and taken to the landfill, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is 26 times more potent than carbon dioxide. An alternative to throwing these foods in the landfill is composting. Composting is recycling organic material, such as vegetable and food scraps, into rich and usable soil. Compost is often referred to as “Black gold” by gardeners because of its productive, nutrient-rich humus material. A full list of items that can be composted is listed below: 

  • Fruit scraps
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Pasta, cereals, chips
  • Pet food
  • Coffee grounds and filters 
  • Tea bags
  • Dry leaves
  • Plant and grass clippings

There are many different ways to compost. In Ames, you can dispose of your organic waste at the Resource Recovery Center (for no charge and outdoor drop-off 24/7!). You can bring your food waste to 420 E 2nd Street (NE corner of the Resource Recovery Center) to drop off in the collection bin for composting. Read more about the Food Waste Diversion (FWD) Program in Ames on the City of Ames website. Another great resource in the community is Core Living Compost. Started by Iowa State students (Carissa Moyna and Andrew Frank), Core Living Compost is a residential and business food waste pickup program for Ames. By being a part of Core Living Compost, you are contributing to pounds and pounds of waste diverted from the landfill and supporting a local student-owned business! To learn more about Core Living Compost’s story and how to participate head to their website. 

Photo courtesy of City of Ames

For more information on reducing food waste in your life, Spend Smart Eat Smart is an all encompassing resource for planning, shopping and cooking. 

The November Newsletter, called Nourish to Flourish, will also offer insights related to food. Don’t forget to stay tuned on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and WordPress for November’s food facts on waste, grocery shopping, composting, leftover parties, and more! Wishing everyone a delicious and thoughtful November!

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