Food and Waste

(#271) — As the autumn approaches and local gardeners are processing a wide variety of the best and most delicious food they will eat all year, a report from the Natural Resource Defense Council reminds us of our profound responsibility for using food and its associated resources in a sustainable way. This report traces the inter- connection between food and all of the other sectors of our society and gives us a failing grade in managing our food system.

We waste a stunning 40% of all food.  The economic value of this food waste is $165 billion. That’s 20 pounds of food per month per person and ten times the rate of wasting food compared with the 1970s! A family of four wastes $2000 of food every year. At the same time, one in six of us, mainly children and the elderly, go hungry.

Food production consumes 50% of our land resources, 80% of our fresh water and 10% of our national energy.  Food waste rotting in landfills produces 25% of the methane emissions which are causing the global warming that threatens human existence in two generations time and in the meantime, the weather chaos  that causes hundreds of billions in economic loss. Food waste squanders fresh water, nutrients and other scarce and valuable natural resources.

Like so many other areas of national failure to operate in a sustainable manner, there are many local solutions.  Sullivan County can be the food shed for NYC  as well as its water shed.

A short list of local solutions available to us include:

1)   Support local food growers and fabricators
2)   Buy from local farmers markets
3)   Invest every year in a CSA (community supported agricultural) share of food
4)   Start or expand a personal garden
5)   Instigate and work at a community garden or a school garden
6)   Purchase all of your meat from a local farm
7)   Apply for one of the Sullivan County grants for an agricultural project administered by the Division of Planning or the Industrial Development Authority
8)   Participate in Cornell Cooperative Extension training programs that teach
how to raise your own meat and/or become a Master Gardener
9)   Learn water conservation, plant propagation and composting techniques
10) Extend vegetable and fruit production through use of high tunnels to a 3 or even 4 season basis
11) Integrate energy conservation and renewable energy generation into food production
12) Make some of your land available to new farmers
13) Attend the Sullivan Agricultural Advisory Board Meetings
14) Purchase food that is in season locally
15) Select food that has no wrapping or packaging
16) Use a root cellar or other device to store food for months at a time without using energy
17) Establish a close relationship with food pantries
18) Join the local Farm to School Program
19) Insist on local, fresh, nutritious food
20) Avoid the industrial, chemical, sugar, salt, preservative product called food that comes from the mind of a food engineer and huge corporation.

Enjoy the humor, health and savings that come from locally produced food.  It will build a sustainable future, a more united community and yield a much higher quality of life.

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