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Rise in wasted food marks holiday season

Summary

American households toss out 25 percent of the food and drink they buy, adding up to more than $130 every month, and that number rises even higher during the holidays.

Story

American households toss out 25 percent of the food and drink they buy, adding up to more than $130 every month, and that number rises even higher during the holidays.

During Thanksgiving alone, Americans threw away more than 204 million pounds of turkey — enough to provide 46 servings of turkey to each of the nearly 18 million households in the United States that don’t have a secure supply of food.

“The holidays are a time for celebration and this often involves large meals,” said Karen May, King County Solid Waste Division program manager. “But this time of year is also an opportunity to reflect on the implications of wasting food when so many in our community don’t have enough to eat.”

The toll taken by food waste includes not only social impacts, but financial and environmental impacts, too. When food is wasted, so is all the energy, fuel, water and cash that was used to get that food into our kitchens

“Producing one pound of turkey meat releases 11 pounds of carbon emissions and consumes 520 gallons of water, which is a per-turkey-pound equivalent of driving your car nearly 12 miles and taking a 130-minute shower,” May said.

King County’s Food: Too Good to Waste campaign is part of a growing national and international movement to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste on its journey from farm to plate. At the household level, food is wasted due to overbuying, improper food storage, tossing leftovers or cooking or serving too much.

Here are some tips to help you waste less food this holiday season:

Shop smart
Make a holiday grocery list that includes quantities for each ingredient. Check your cupboards, fridge and freezer before you shop so you’ll know what you already have at home. Stick to your list and shop on a full stomach to avoid impulse buys.

Make a plan
Be realistic about how much food you really need to buy and cook. Estimate the headcount for your holiday meals and use an online portions planner. Think about what you had leftover in past holidays. Can you do with one less side dish?

Control portions
Serve your big holiday meal on smaller plates to encourage taking less food at one time. Your guests can always go back for seconds!

Store it right
While shopping pre-holiday, learn how best to store produce items so they stay fresh until you start cooking for guests.  Many online resources provide storage guides for all types of food.  Store your own leftovers in clear containers so you don’t forget what’s inside. If they won’t get eaten right away, use your freezer.

Love your leftovers
If you have guests over for the holidays, ask them to bring reusable storage containers so you can send them home with leftovers. Make a post-holiday plan for eating leftover food, such as recipes that utilize remaining mashed potatoes or turkey.

For more information and resources, including recipes to help prevent food waste at home, visit recyclefood.com.