Where is our food going?

Kids and Food Waste

Would you take $1600 in cash and throw it in the trash? Believe it or not, the average American family does that every year, in the form of wasted food that they purchased and then threw away. Most people don’t think about the costly–and environmentally damaging–problem of food waste, but there are ways to prevent it or at least redirect it to higher and better uses. Food is valuable in many forms, so rather than sending food to landfill (where it contributes to global warming), as appropriate, it can be given to other people, fed to chickens or other farm animals, or turned into biofuel or compost.

Help your kids learn about portion sizes

Help your kids learn about portion sizes

The sad state of affairs is that we are wasting 40% of our food in America. You can find more facts and tips on preventing waste at home, when dining out, and in the community in an article I wrote for the summer’s issue of Edible Austin.


I also gave a talk this spring at the TEDxYouth@Austin event called Trashing Food.

As the mom of a child enrolled at EcoKids, I’m sure I face many of the same challenges as you when it comes to dealing with food waste. Even with my passion for preventing waste, I still face spoiled yogurt, wilted greens or inedible leftovers.  However, I have some strategies that help us raise healthy kids, prevent waste, and avoid landfilling any food.

  • Create a culture of non-waste. Be a role model by taking a responsible amount and eating what you take. I was impressed (and touched) when, seeing that his guest wasn’t going to finish the lunch we served him, my 7-year-old told his buddy, “We don’t waste food in our household.”
  • Cook the amount that our family will eat in one meal. Or, if it is a food that would make a good leftover lunch, I’ll make enough for that.
  • Save food and eat leftovers or incorporate veggies into other dishes, like quiche, soup, or my favorite this time of year – smoothies! We use a lot of greens, veggies and fruits before they go bad by blending them with ice, some frozen banana chunks (which were frozen to avoid tossing the slightly too-ripe bananas), organic frozen blueberries (Costco sells a big bag of them), and our choice of liquid: milk, a milk alternative, juice, coconut water or another favorite drink.
A compost bin is easy to find, fairly cheap and saves money over time.

A compost bin is easy to find, fairly cheap and saves money over time.

Any food that isn’t suitable for us to eat gets offered to our chickens, and the rest goes into our compost pile. Food is too precious a resource to take for granted.

Note: If you need pointers on keeping chickens (they lay delicious eggs, by the way) or composting, write to me at ecobrandi@gmail.com and I’ll send you resources. I also recommend subscribing to the free, twice-weekly Austin EcoNews. You will find out about workshops, volunteer opportunities, rebates from the City and other useful info for living a greener life.