Updated: Jun 1, 2022
The negative effects of climate change might not be something that you want to talk about with your children. It’s scary and depressing even for us adults. That doesn’t mean we can stick our heads in the sand in hopes it will go away. No, quite the opposite. We must break our own bad habits and start teaching children to think about food differently than most of us were taught growing up.
By now you probably have heard the statistics that up to 40% of the food that is produced in the US is wasted, and that food waste is number one contributor to climate change. Food waste impacts everyone. Nobody is exempt for it has repercussions economically, socially and environmentally. We must all start to change the way we think about food, and to have the biggest impact we must begin with educating our children. They hold the key to the future and the health of people and the planet.
Our kids have learned from our bad habits. They have gotten use to grocery stores with fully stock shelves with perfect looking produce, restaurants with portions larger than most can eat, and a fully stock refrigerator at home. They, just like us, grown up with an abundance mentality. Unfortunately, growing up expecting high standards of food quality, it has become totally acceptable to throw out perfectly good food.
The EPA’s Food Waste Hierarchy is a tool which offers and ranks best practices to reduce the amount of food that get wasted. At the top of this hierarchy, is source reduction or in other words prevention. Prevention is the number one and preferred method of reducing food waste and can easily be taught to our children from a very young age.
Take for example a beet. A beet is composed of four main parts, the bulb, the skin, and the leaves. All are edible and all are nutritious. In fact, the skin on the beet is the most nutritious of all.
The beet grows as a whole food so therefore the bulb, leaves and stem each using the same amount natural and human resources to get to your kitchen. The same amount of land, water, labor, energy, and gas. But people tend to value the bulb more. Most people will land up discarding the skin, stem, and leaves thinking of them as “by-products” when in fact they are “co-products”. There are many uses for these co-products. The beet greens and stems are great in salads, sauteed or pickled. Beet skins don’t even have to be removed from a beet before you eat them if you clean them properly, but they also can be roasted and made into healthy chips.
Do you see what I am getting at? By using the whole beet, you are elevating it to its highest potential. You transform the concept of "food waste" into "wasted food". This is the first step in changing our mindset and teaching our kids the true value of food.
About this Article: This is Part 1 of an ongoing series of articles intended to help parents, educators, and communities to understand the issues of food waste. The series will include articles that will build awareness of the problem, but most of all provide solutions that will bring positive change.
About Hudson Valley EAT: Janet Irizarry founded Hudson Valley EATS in 2017 to highlight restaurant owners and food entrepreneurs in the Hudson Valley. In 2020 she decided to use Hudson Valley EAT as a means for “doing good” and since then has focused on creating an online community of people who love food, care about helping others and want to protect the environment. Hudson Valley EATS highlights everything food in the Hudson Valley provide opportunities for the community to make positive steps in securing the health of our food system.