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Be a superhero by trimming food waste

Small steps can make a big impact in the 1.3 billion tons of food that’s wasted every year

Take a bite out of food waste by making sure you use fruits and vegetables before they spoil.

On a recent flight, I was pleasantly surprised by the built-in video screens with free movies in the seat backs.

I settled in and decided on entertainment for my 2-1/2-hour flight.

I tuned into an animated movie, “The Incredibles 2,” which tells the story of a superhero family. The supermom (Elastigirl) has the ability to stretch her body into everything from an air balloon to a slingshot. She had a tricked-out rocket motorcycle.

I’m not sure that was the best movie to watch during our turbulence at 30,000 feet. The pilot told us to fasten our seatbelts just as Elastigirl launched her rocket cycle into space to save the day.

I hung on to the arms of my seat as Elastigirl (and I) flew through bumpy air. I have been to 3D movies, but never 4D movies. I won’t spoil the movie ending for you.

On the next flight, I decided to watch a calmer, insightful documentary, “Wasted: the Story of Food Waste.” I learned that we all can be superheroes, to some extent, if we take steps to reduce food waste.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about one-third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption gets wasted. That amounts to 1.3 billion tons of food.

Wasted food in homes accounts for up to 40 per cent of total food waste, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reports. According to its 2017 study conducted in Denver, Colo., Nashville, Tenn., and New York, N.Y., researchers found that 68 per cent of the discarded food was potentially edible.

Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables topped the list of wasted foods, followed by prepared foods and leftovers.

We can’t save all the food, but most of us can take steps to reduce food waste at home.

Be sure to buy what you need and use the ripest fruits first. Try using your leftovers as lunches, or repurpose your leftovers in casseroles, soups, stir-fry, quesadillas or omelettes. Freeze your leftover fruits, vegetables and other foods.

What about all those food scraps, such as potato peelings? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps and yard waste make up 20 to 30 per cent of what we throw away and could be composted instead.

In fact, about 58 per cent of the participants in the NRDC study felt less guilty if they composted the food instead of throwing it out.

Compost consists of organic materials that can be added to soil that will help your plants grow. Compost is like “black gold” that can be used in your garden to enrich the soil, reduce the need for fertilizers, reduce the amount of organic waste sent to the landfill and reduce the methane emissions from landfills.

Yes, you can start composting at home, even in the winter. The waste material might freeze solid and the decomposition will stop, but you can keep adding scraps. The frozen food scraps won’t produce odours that attract animals.

You also can purchase a small bin to keep closer to your home so you do not need to dig your way through the snow to reach a compost bin.

Compostables are divided into three main categories: greens, browns and water.

“Greens” include food scraps such as apple cores, leafy greens, onion skins, corn cobs and husks, egg shells, banana peels, chopped potatoes, squash, pumpkins, coffee grounds and any other refuse from fruits and vegetables, including weeds (except perennial weeds) that you pluck from the garden.

“Browns” include branchy plants, leaves, shredded paper, newspaper, sawdust, nut shells, coffee filters, straw, small sticks and twigs, wood chips and empty cardboard tubes. For faster composting, the smaller the pieces, the better.

A compost pile is a living ecosystem and needs the right balance of ingredients and adequate water to function. The goal is for the compost pile to be damp, like a wrung-out sponge. A compost pile also should have good drainage.

Your compost pile should have an equal amount of browns and greens. The brown materials provide carbon for your compost, the green materials provide nitrogen, and the water provides moisture to help break down the organic matter.

Let’s practise avoiding food waste. Do you have any potatoes that are nearing the end of their shelf life? Use them or freeze them, and compost the peelings if you choose to peel them. Visit the NDSU website to learn more about food preservation.

Remember, too, that potatoes provide potassium, vitamin C and a range of nutrients to keep you in “superhero shape.”

Roasted Parmesan Garlic Potatoes

  • 2 large red potatoes
  • 1 large russet potato
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tbsp. parsley leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wash and slice potatoes and onion into 1/4-inch slices. In a round pie plate, line the potatoes and onion alternately. Try to match the size of potatoes and onions when arranging them in the pie plate. In a bowl, combine melted butter, olive oil, herbs, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and minced garlic. Drizzle the mixture over the potato and onion round, brushing the herbs and Parmesan over the top. Place in the oven for one hour or until potatoes are fork tender with crispy edges. Serve warm with a little fresh parsley and a dashof Parmesan.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 160 calories, 7 grams (g) fat, 3 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 3 g fibreand 120 milligrams sodium.

This potato recipe can help you add a range of nutrients to your diet. photo: NDSU

About the author


Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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