My Favorite Way to Prevent Food Waste

Have you heard? Forty percent (40%!!) of food in America gets thrown away. Much of that food is tossed before it ever reaches consumers.

My favorite way to prevent food waste: shop at the farmers market.

One of the very big down sides of industrial agriculture is homogenization. This applies not just to the sharp decline in the number and diversity of varieties grown, but also to the accepted size and appearance of fruits and vegetables. Too large, too small, not spherical or cylindrical enough, slightly blemished. I read once that when citrus is harvested the fruit has to fit within narrow size and shape parameters so that the same quantity will fit perfectly together within each box. Those that don't fit correctly are tossed to the side, possibly recovered, possibly not. Many perfectly edible, nutritious, and delicious fruits and vegetables never even make it to stores because they don't fit the aesthetic or utilitarian standard.

Enter farmers markets. Farmers markets allow growers to sell "good-quality products that might not meet size, shelf life, or other criteria imposed by retailers" (source). In addition, "local fruits and vegetables are also not subjected to rough transportation, handling, or interrupted cooling, so less are wasted in transit" (source).

The farmers at my market pack up their own produce, often picked that morning, and drive it an hour or two to the market in the back of their truck. They don't need to package up their wares for a transcontinental or transoceanic voyage. It's OK if all the grapefruit don't fit together perfectly within a specific box like factory-made softballs. Here the unique and misshapen are a source of curiosity and fun. The two-tailed carrot. The pepper that resembles abstract art. The ridiculously large squash. The mini red onion. And the slightly imperfect or blemished or soon-to-be-rotten produce? It doesn't get tossed. It gets placed in the special bargain bin, and sold to lucky families for homemade jam and cobblers and casseroles.

So often shopping at the farmers market I see and purchase fruits and vegetables that would never make it inside the supermarket door. And so I consider this one of my small contributions to reducing food waste. We will eat the carrot that's tricky to peel. We will eat the apples with a few bruises and blemishes (and, yes, a worm hole). We will run home and eat the stone fruit and tomatoes too soft and juicy to last a long journey.

This Earth Day, try this simple and fun way to reduce food waste: find and shop at your local farmers market. Take a friend, brag about your finds to your neighbors, spread the word.

How do you reduce food waste?

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  1. I commit to shopping at the farmer's market more often this summer! We have so many to choose from in Minneapolis - I have no excuse!


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