Don’t Waste Homegrown Produce — Donate It!

Can you eat everything your garden's growing? If not, donate it!

Can you eat everything your garden’s growing? If not, donate it!

In the U.S., 40 percent of our food goes to waste. Upon hearing that statistic, many of us tend to think about the waste that occurs in our kitchens or in restaurants. A large portion of that waste, however, also takes place on farms because of logistical issues during harvest. Additionally, an increasing number of people grow food themselves in backyards and community gardens across the country, and sometimes food even gets wasted on these small “farms.” During good growing seasons with adequate rain and few pests, people can wind up with too much of a particular crop and then don’t know what to do with it.

If you find yourself in this situation and can’t find someone to take extra produce off your hands, consider using one of the many nonprofit organizations trying to turn potential food waste into healthy meals. More than 50 million Americans face food insecurity, so it only makes sense to find ways to get food to those who need it (because the landfill certainly doesn’t need your produce!).

Ample Harvest, for example, is a national organization that connects people interested in donating their extra garden harvest to local food pantries. Currently, their system has 6,812 food pantries registered to receive fresh food, which is typically something food pantries are unable to offer their patrons because of the short shelf life of produce. To contribute, gardeners can use the Ample Harvest website to search for food pantries nearby and find out times when donations are accepted. Since 2009, many millions of pounds of produce have been donated using the system.

Plenty of local programs have similar goals, so you can also look into what food donation programs exist in your community. In Portland, Ore., the city’s Parks and Recreation Department began a program in 1995 called Produce for People that partners with hunger relief agencies to donate fruits and vegetables to food pantries. Dozens of the city’s community gardens participate, and many even plant a special section whose harvest is grown specifically for the organization.

While food waste in gardens may seem small compared to the much greater amounts of waste in the larger food system, every little bit we save from the landfill — and provide to someone in need — adds up.

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It’s Not Plastic, It’s Not Paper but it takes up 21% of our Landfills

foodchartLet’s face it, we are all guilty of throwing away food. Whether you accidentally cooked too much last week and never got around to reheating it or maybe that unlucky item that was pushed to the back of your pantry expired, we all have had a reason to discard unused or unwanted food. It’s just food right? What harm can food possibly do? Well, all that food has to go somewhere. Food waste goes directly to landfills and incinerators with only 4% being diverted for composting. Every year around 36 million tons of food waste reaches our landfills. Although food waste does decompose, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas when it breaks down in landfills. Here are some tips on what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and divert food waste from our landfills.

Reduce over-purchasing

Purchase only the food that will be used. Avoid large quantities of an item; even if it’s on sale think about if you’re really going to eat it all. It also helps to have a list or guideline on hand when you go grocery shopping. Keep yourself on track and avoid buying things on impulse.

Compost

Composting transforms your kitchen waste into valuable nutrients for your garden. There’s a difference when food waste decomposes in a landfill and when it decomposes on the ground at your home. In landfills air cannot get to the organic waste and so when food waste breaks down it produces methane, which is bad. On the other hand at home it decomposes aerobically which means oxygen helps the waste break down and so hardly any methane is produced.

Donate fresh food to those in need

Donate any non-perishable and unspoiled perishable food to your local food banks, soup kitchens pantries and shelters. Check with them to find out what items they will and will not accept.

Check out 21 frightening U.S Facts and Statistics about Food Waste  

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