The main image here might not get your appetite going, but sometimes food isn't just about perfect plating. Like yellow-helmeted sentries lined up in a row, dozens of food waste containers await pickup. However, unlike much of the food that's discarded in this country, the contents will be composted rather than joining crowded landfills.
In a world where nearly 800 million people don't have enough food to sustain a healthy life (49 million in America, including 16 million kids)—fully 40 percent of food purchased by consumers in the U.S. ends up in landfills. But, it doesn’t have to be that way if we change our attitudes, habits and policies, according to two presenters at this month’s Controlled Environment Agricultural Center seminar.
“Over a third of Mexico’s winter produce comes through the Nogales port and is warehoused on this side of the border until it’s ordered,” says Dr. Pat Sparks of the UA’s Nutritional Sciences Department. “Unfortunately, a significant portion of that produce is never sold and ends up in a landfill…a significant waste we need to eliminate.”
Sparks says new ways of packaging that food are being explored that could extend its shelf life. Co-presenter Torey Ligon of the UA’s Take Charge America Institute says that if consumers shopped more frequently and bought less each trip, part of the problem would go away.
“Most shoppers visit four or more grocery stores in a regular rotation and while they dislike wasting food, their desire to minimize effort spent in shopping leads them to shop too infrequently," Ligon says. "Most shop to keep a well-stocked pantry rather than for specific meals, leading them to overbuy, and as a result, to throw away over $900 worth of food each year. By shopping for only short-term needs, consumers might be able to reduce this waste and the resultant financial loss."
Ligon also notes just a few of the many the ways in which produce purveyors can contribute in the fight against food waste.
"Innovations in the grocery marketplace like on-demand ordering and grocery delivery might make it feasible to shop more frequently in a convenient way,” she says.
So, whether you're looking to save that $1,000 or so per year in food waste or you're looking to discover ways you can fully use what you buy, the free seminar from the Controlled Environment Agricultural Center will be ripe with knowledge in either camp. The event will be held Friday, Nov. 20 at 4 p.m. at 1951 E. Roger Road.
To learn more about just a handful of the other food waste elimination initiatives in town, check out TW's look at gleaning
, or the gathering of locally-grown foods that would otherwise fall to the ground uneaten.