By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer
Sun Journal news story
LEWISTON — Food is a resource that shouldn’t be wasted, especially with so many in need, Bridgette Bartlett, St. Mary’s Nutrition Center Garden Education Coordinator, said.
The number of people using St. Mary’s food pantry has grown from 378 individuals a week in 2014 to 550 a week in 2016.
But not wasting food takes work and planning.
In 2015, high school students who worked at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center did a study at Lewiston High School’s cafeteria to find out how much food was tossed.
Students spent a couple of days combing through the garbage, Bartlett said. They found that on a typical day, some 200 pounds of food was thrown out: 118 pounds of food that was good but wasn’t eaten; 57 pounds of kitchen waste that could have been composted; 23 pounds of food that could not be used because it was no longer fresh.
Here are tips for how to avoid that in your home:
• Don’t buy food you’re not going to use; learn to buy the right amount;
• If you’re having a holiday dinner, “do you need three pies for four people? That’s how the cycle of waste happens,” said Alan Plummer of Augusta, who’s made an art out of “gleaning” food at farms and who eats EVERYTHING he brings home;
• Before going to the grocery store, make a menu for dinners and lunches and a list of what’s needed. “There should be a plan for everything you buy,” Plummer said; and
• Stick to eating what you have, ignoring any impulse to not eat what was planned. You can eat the takeout once your food is used up.
“It’s a mindset,” Plummer said. “You buy a package of celery for soup. The rest of the celery stays in the fridge.”
Plan ways to use all the celery, Plummer said. “Could you put all of it in soup?” Or sandwiches? Casseroles? Think about the food in your fridge so it doesn’t get lost and go bad.
When roasting a chicken or turkey, all the leftover meat can be deployed for future meals: turkey, rice and vegetables, turkey burritos, sandwiches. Turkey or chicken bones can make soup stock.
“Think of different ways to use it with the goal of using it all and save money,” Bartlett said.
And use your freezer.
“You can freeze about anything,” Plummer said. “Freezing stops the deterioration process.”
If you don’t want to eat leftovers or that entire pot of soup, freeze it. Did you buy a tray of pork or chicken you don’t need for one meal? While it’s still fresh, separate, wrap, label, freeze.
When there’s an abundance of fresh herbs or vegetables in the summer, they can be frozen. For instance, cilantro can be processed with oil and garlic then frozen in ice cube trays, Bartlett said. Later, while cooking, pop out some cilantro, oil and garlic.
On days you discover there’s too much food in the fridge or freezer (what is that?), turn it into a “Chopped” cooking show where contestants have to create meals with different ingredients.
Or have a leftover day, Bartlett said.
One reason more food is being wasted is because consumers are becoming fussy eaters, Plummer said.
If your bananas or tomatoes are starting to go soft, it doesn’t mean they have to be thrown out. They’re still edible, Plummer said. “Don’t throw it away.”
To not waste food, you need to pay attention, care about your budget and the environment.
If food isn’t used to feed people or animals, “we should compost it and give it back to the soil,” Plummer said. “No food should go in landfills adding to that big pile of junk. The methane is stronger than carbon dioxide. That’s harmful to the environment.”