Friday, January 6, 2017

Food Waste

-- Thoughts On Food Waste -- 

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and wondered if your table sent so much un-eaten food back for disposal, just how much is being wasted at every table, every night? The answer – a lot. There’s a lot at the back where all the food processing is done as well. Bins of the stuff is being created every day at the back of every café, grocery store, deli, coffee shop, and restaurant (to name a few).

If your area is rich in agriculture, you likely have some kind of processing or manufacturing or brewing companies in town. They too, create bins of the stuff.

So what to do about all this waste?

Well, you do know I’m a huge proponent of composting – and a lot of companies have created programs to compost their waste, or utilized existing ones in their communities. So that is starting to take root as part of our culture. Individuals too are taking up composting much more readily, and so they can take advantage of this (or community programs) by making sure that every drop of wasted food goes into these systems.

There’s also biofuel programs and projects being taken on by both entire communities and individual companies – where they convert their waste into a type of fuel that can be used in their plants, through transport vehicles and a variety of other ways. You’ve also heard me talk about companies that dehydrate the stuff and sell it as a powdered soil amendment.

You are also aware that I’m a proponent of networking. Many pet owners and farmers (and even individual compost enthusiasts) can take advantage of generous business owners who are willing to have their organic waste picked up and taken care by these individuals. The waste can be cooked down, safely, put through a sieve (to prevent non organic and large bones from going through) and then ground into a mash and fed as a mash to farm animals such as pigs. Individual pet owners can pick up unwanted specific waste items for their backyard chickens, rabbits, goats and their own compost systems.  

By the way, this kind of mash fed to pigs replaces the mainly soy-based feed they are often given, and provides a carbon reduction of 11,600 kg per ton of mash consumed… as opposed to biofuel, which saves about 448 kg of carbon per ton of mash. Both produce a sellable and viable and needed product, however and both offer a way to reduce both waste and carbon footprint.

There are programs like our local “Harvest Share” where volunteers will come and pick the fruit and nuts (or whatever) from your property that you do not want or cannot use. They’ll share up to a third of the harvest with you if you want it (ideal for seniors, injured, pregnant and differently-abled individuals). They take the rest and share it with the needy in the community through a variety of food-delivery programs. 

There are also groups like the "Okanagan Gleaners" who get volunteers together to utilize unwanted or unsellable but very edible food items from producers, manufacturers and growers - clean it, chop and dehydrate it, making different dehydrated meals from them for the needy. You can do this on a small scale yourself; making meals, snacks, dehydrated powders and mixes, and preserves. Home made items like these are wonderful to donate, offer as gifts, share with friends and neighbors, etc. Last year, for instance, our area had such a rich harvest in tomatoes one could hardly give them away - so we dehydrated batch after batch, grinding the dehydrated tomato slices into a powder, which we use to thicken soups and sauces, to add more flavor to hamburger and veggie patties, etc. 2 years ago a few mutual friends had the opportunity to glean excess peppers from a market garden - and they got so much they shared a box with us. Only a few of the peppers were fully ripe, however we dehydrated most of the box of peppers and ground that into a powder... that jar only has about an inch of pepper powder left in it, we use it that much!

Most communities also have a food bank, and it is always a good idea to check with them to see if they have or know of a need for your unwanted fresh food items. Check with poverty support systems in town such as soup kitchens where they may cherish even the smallest amount of excess that you might be able to share.  And don’t forget local online conversation groups (FaceBook offers a lot of these) where you might be able to exchange or just offer or even sell your excess – everything from flowers and herbs to excess zucchini. If you’ve done a lot of processing, and don’t have a compost system or program in place, – you could offer it on one of these groups and someone might just want it and will pick it up that day.

Also, you may want to consider taking the food home whenever you have eaten at a restaurant or café. It is easy to ask for a container, or better yet – bring one with you in your bag or jacket. When you are done eating simply tip your plate to the side and slide the food into the container. At home, you might choose to use it for composting, or eating later, or sharing with your pet.

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