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Talking Trash: Reducing Food Waste Starts At Home

This undated photo shows Mexican avocados for sale at Whole Foods market in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego County.
Nicholas McVicker
This undated photo shows Mexican avocados for sale at Whole Foods market in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego County.
Talking Trash: Reducing Food Waste Starts At Home
How To Reduce Food Waste In Your Home GUEST: Michelle Lerach, founder, Berry Good Food Foundation Jennifer Gilmore, executive director, Kitchens For Good

Your mom used to tell you to clean your plate but it is a lesson that many of us have forgotten. The US government estimates that Americans waste up to 40% of the food supply. It is not just leftovers. It is in groceries bought but never used, produce grown but never sold and a massive amount of institutional food waste. A panel in San Diego tonight focuses on food waste and unique ways to reduce the amount of food we throw away. Joining me is Michelle Lerach. She is founder of very good food foundation which is cohosting the panel discussion with kitchens for good. Michelle, welcome to the program. Ranks. It is nice to be here. Jennifer Leigh -- Jennifer Gill more also joins me. Welcome. Thank you. Food waste really occurs all along the food chain. Put it into perspective if you could, how much food is ending up in the garbage? I am glad that you raised the point about stages of waste. It is true that food waste or loss occurs at every stage but it is an interesting phenomenon that in the developing world, 40% of that waste occurs in the postharvest processing. Whereas in industrial ESCON -- countries like ours, 40% is at retail consumer. In the United States, the book is occurring at the consumer level. But we give you some numbers. $1600 is the amount that the average family spends on food that is never eaten. 1400 cal is the amount the average person wastes per day in the United States. That is a pretty staggering number. That is enough for another human. Is that a human on a diet? No. That is a healthy human. 36,000,000 tons of food waste and only a small amount is recovered. It is really important. I think you mentioned the environmental impact is huge. I wanted to talk about that. We don't think about that. You don't think about food waste affecting the environment. How does it affect our natural resources? Food waste that is wasted and not given to humans or otherwise utilized efficiently which would be to feed animals, compost and then biofuel. The food waste that ends up in landfill actually ends up being one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the United States. If we can divert it, not only would we have the capacity -- first, we should stop wasting. When we were little, my mom used to say I was a good eater which was a good thing. I am not sure anymore. Stop wasting. That is about how much you by and saving leftovers and eating leftovers and coming up with creative ways to do it. After that, make sure that any food that is human, edible like it's two people any food. If we simply reallocate the resources we have, we have plenty to feed everyone in the world. If we reduce our food waste globally by one quarter, we have enough food to feed everyone of the worlds hungry ovulation. There are many efforts underway to reduce food waste. If you are as comprehensive as kitchen for good. Can you tell us what you guys are doing? Kitchens for good as a social enterprise which means that we raise 70% of our budget by earned revenue. We run a catering company but our business model takes that events company and integrates job-training and production of meals for those in need. Many of the meals that we make our utilized food that other people did not want. What kind of impact is the program having on breaking the cycle of food waste? This year, we expect to rescue 50,000 pounds. We also see that we can get to the level where we are producing 10,000 meals a day made out of food that could not be sold in grocery stores or did not get harvested from fields. We really think that this is going to have a profound impact on the families and individuals being served by organizations. On the other side of the circle of what your organization does, it is providing jobs for people who are at risk of being hungry. Tell us about that. Right. I spent a lot of time in hunger relief. We have had a lot of people. But to be able to move somebody from a food line -- if you want to change a life, get somebody a job. The culinary job-training program so far, 40 graduates have gone through the program. All of them are employed earning an average wage of $13 per hour. We are really proud about that. The EPA and the department of agriculture food waste reduction goal is to cut food waste by 50% by 2030. How can the average person wastes less food? I want to point out that there is a great resource on the San Diego website. There are food storage and donation tips link. We can buy less and by what we need. We can shop more frequently. We can plan out a week's menu. There are lots of things that consumers -- don't choose your fruit and vegetables based on appearance. Ute is only skin deep. We know the difference -- beauty is only skin deep. We know the difference between the heirloom tomato and the perfect around one and we all know which one taste better. It is not the one that is perfectly round and read. There is a combination of things. The waste that is occurring at retail is occurring because we as consumers are not interested in buying fruit and vegetables that don't look pretty. We really need to reach beyond that. I want to tell you something. Tonight's panel will be at kitchens for good. It will start at 6 PM. The food and drink is at 530. What we always do at these panels is we bring in free food and drink that is consistent with the messaging. In this instant, ourselves -- chefs came in and worked with the kitchen and created a glorious menu that is out of products that would otherwise have been wasted. We are not talking about using spoiled food or food that should go into the garbage or into the compost. Good food. It is beautiful. It hurts me to call it waste the cause it is gorgeous. It could be a yam that looks like a duck or a tomato that is a little smaller or a peach that has a bruise. The other day we had beautiful donation of peaches come in and the students created homemade fruit roll ups for 1000 kids. It is really beautiful. It is being used for good. This is such an important thing because 6,000,000,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables in the United States are unharvested or unsold because of looks. Reimagining food waste is the title of tonight's panel. One last question for you. How do you reimagine stuff left over from tonight's dinner? What do you do? Every left over from tonight's dinner is going to be used to feed homebound seniors. We make those meals on Wednesday. So you are doing that as well. The discussion on reimagining food waste takes place tonight at the Jacob center in Downtown San Diego. It starts at 6 PM. There is some food being served. It starts at 5:30 PM. I've been speaking with Michelle a rack of the very good food foundation and Jennifer Gilmore with kitchens for good. Thank you both so much. Our pleasure.

Reimagining Food Waste Panel

When: 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 23

Where: Joe and Vi Jacobs Center

Cost: Free


The U.S. government estimates that Americans waste up to 40 percent of the food supply.

And it's not just leftovers. It's groceries bought but never used, produce grown but never sold and a massive amount of institutional food waste.

A panel discussion in San Diego on Tuesday focuses on the impact of food waste on the environment and unique ways to reduce the amount of food that's thrown away.

The Berry Good Food Foundation is co-hosting the discussion with the nonprofit Kitchens for Good. The talk is part of the foundation's series on sustainable food-related topics.

Michelle Lerach, founder of the Berry Good Food Foundation, and Jennifer Gilmore, executive director of Kitchens for Good, discuss what's being done in San Diego to stop the cycle of food waste on Midday Edition on Tuesday.