No Food Left Behind

No Food Left Behind Assistant Project Manager, Amanda Rhodes, provides food waste challenge materials to participants at the Corvallis farmer’s market.

There it is: that bag of salad greens you swore you would eat this week.  Sure, it made a good salad or two in its heyday, but now it has been reduced to nothing more than a cellophane bag containing green slime.  Into the trash or compost pile it goes.  If you are like the average American family that disposes of $1600 worth of edible food a year—or if you experience major pangs of guilt upon letting food go bad—don’t fret, there is help!

This spring, the Waste Prevention Action Team of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition launched the No Food Left Behind project.  The project, funded by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, aims to help people waste less food.  No Food Left Behind is spearheaded by Oregon State University alumna Jeanette Hardison and her team.  Hardison has been working on educating people on recycling and waste prevention in Oregon since the 90’s.

The vision of the No Food Left Behind Project is to educate community members about why it is important to waste less food and how to go about doing it.  By providing helpful information and resources, No Food Left Behind is helping to remove barriers for people in order to make it easy to reduce food waste and save money.  The team connects with residents face to face at the farmers market and with their food waste challenge, which Hardison says makes the most lasting changes and can inspire others at work and school.

A Costly Commodity
When you pick up that bag of lettuce from the store you are the end consumer.  There were many resources used to produce that lettuce: the water it took to grow the plant, the energy it took for a person to harvest it, the fuel it took to drive the food to the store, the power required to keep it refrigerated. Every food item that goes into your grocery cart has a similar story.

At this point you may be wondering, “But I already compost. Isn’t that enough?”

Composting is definitely a great way to divert your food from ending up in the landfill. Food that ends up in a landfill produces massive amounts of greenhouse gasses which contribute to climate change.  However, while composting does prevent excess greenhouse gas production, the resources used to produce the food are still wasted.  Hardison notes, “It is critical to understand that this effort is not just about wasting less edible food—it’s especially about conserving the resources during production that are squandered when food isn’t eaten, such as land, water, soil inputs, labor, energy and fuel.”

The Challenge
On April 30 of this year, the No Food Left Behind Project launched their first ever Challenge to Waste Less Food.  In this challenge, approximately 80 households pledged to keep track of their food waste habits for six weeks.  Every household was furnished with a compost pail and kitchen scale to weigh out food that was going to be tossed.  Participants recorded the mass of the food they were wasting and were provided with tools to help reduce waste in the following weeks.  Throughout the challenge, participants received email support from Assistant Project Manager Amanda Rhodes.  Rhodes, who has a background in Public Policy and Nutrition, provided helpful tips and recipes to use up commonly tossed food items.  At the end of the study, the No Food Left Behind team will determine which methods of food waste prevention worked for the participants and get an idea of how much food waste can be prevented by Corvallis residents.

What You Can Do
There are several easy steps people can take today to reduce their food waste and save money. If you missed out on the challenge, the No Food Left Behind team has provided some tips:

• Meal planning: having a good idea of what you are going to eat will help you during shopping, which is a huge time and money saver.

• Prep it: many vegetables can be washed and cut up days before you use them.  This is a huge time saver and makes snacking and preparing a meal easier.

• Store food properly: improper storage of food may hasten its spoilage.

• Add signage to your fridge: a sign that indicates which foods to eat first will make it less likely that they will be forgotten

• And last but not least, spread the word: tell your friends, family and coworkers why it’s important to waste less food and share some of your success stories with them

If you want to know more about the No Food Left Behind Project or to download useful resources about food waste at home visit or follow them on facebook @NFLBCorvallis.