As Dietetic Interns, we are challenged to examine our dietary habits and analyze how our choices contribute to food waste. Sadly, nearly 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S. alone, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Throughout the food supply chain from farmer to table, consumers are the leading contributor to food waste according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation. In 2007, 28% of the world’s land was used to contain food waste garbage. Trends show that we contribute 50% more to food waste now than we did in 1970, which means the 28% figure has most likely increased since 2007 if we follow our trend.
To put this into perspective, imagine you pick up a “processed” chicken from the grocery store. If we buy it whole, we see most of the chicken. It has two legs, two wings, two thighs, two breasts, etc. We prepare to roast it for dinner. But in food waste terms, instead of cooking all of it, we intentionally lob of a wing, one leg and a thigh and throw it away. This goes to a landfill and produces methane gas, the methane gas absorbs heat and increases our planet’s temperature. Not to mention the money you lost when you bought a whole chicken, but only ate 3/5ths of it. Now multiply that impact across all the households on your street, in your neighborhood, in your town, state, and country. That’s pretty big.
This is a pretty grim topic, but there is hope. There are three simple things we can do to reduce our impact:
- Buy what you can reasonably eat. Maybe you didn’t need a whole chicken in the first place.
- Freeze leftovers. A couple cups of chicken goes a long way in a casserole. Here is a recipe for easy leftover mini casseroles. I’ve made the linked recipe and swapped brown rice for the quinoa and broccoli and other vegetables I have on hand for the peas.
- Use vegetable scraps to make a stock. You can save vegetables peals or shavings by placing them in a container in your freezer until you have enough to make a stock. This past week I used leftovers from a store-bought rotisserie chicken to make a delicious chicken and vegetable soup.
- To a large pot, toss in what is left of the chicken and cover with water. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes. I added reserved shavings from the carrots and parsnips, leaves and ends from the celery, and skins from the onions I had already diced up for the soup.
- Remove the chicken and vegetable scraps from the pot. Discard the cooked vegetable scraps and allow the chicken to cool. Strain the broth and reserve it in a separate bowl.
- Return the empty pot to the stove. Add a splash of olive oil to the pot, add diced onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, 1 teaspoon of thyme, ½ teaspoon of ground sage, and ½ teaspoon of salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat. Once the onions are slightly translucent, reduce the heat and add 3 cloves of diced garlic and allow to cook for a few more minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Meanwhile, pick through the cooled chicken to separate the bones and skin from the meat. Because it has been boiled, it is a fairly quick process. Discard the bones and skin.
- Add the chicken and reserved stock to the pot of vegetables. You might need to add a little water to fully cover the vegetables and chicken. Toss in some more salt and pepper to taste and allow to simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
- We ate it for lunch and then froze the leftovers for a later meal.
Reducing food waste is the responsibility of everyone on our planet. There are simple steps we can all take to help reduce our food waste impact.