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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bluegrass PRIDE: Reducing ‘waste-line’ in 2013, putting an end to throwing out food

Patti Stivender
KyForward columnist

It’s that time of year again when everyone is full of good intentions and new resolutions. At the top of my list for this year, in addition to the reduction of my waistline, is the reduction of my waste stream. My family does a great job of recycling and composting, but we often fall short when it comes to using fresh food before it spoils.

I try to provide a healthy diet for my family. Part of this is purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. Oftentimes I purchase these items, they live at my house for a week or two, and then they are tossed into the garbage or onto the compost pile. Although composting is great, it should be used mainly for food prep waste and not for disposal of unused foods.

How am I going to make this change? My first step was to measure the temperature of my refrigerator. I checked out Bluegrass PRIDE’s energy audit kit and used the appliance thermometer to measure the temperature of several areas in my fridge. I found that I actually had my temperature setting 2 degrees lower than the recommended 35 – 38 degrees.

Next, I did some research on the proper storage of fruits and vegetables. I found that a surprising number should not be stored in the refrigerator at all. We all know to store potatoes and onions in a cool, dry place. But which foods are best in the fridge and which are best on the countertop? Most fruits can be stored in a bowl on the countertop, with the exception of berries and grapes which should be refrigerated. Remove the fruit from any plastic packaging or perforate the plastic first, but do not wash them until they will be eaten (washing can damage the skin resulting in a faster rate of decay).

I also discovered that the “crisper” is there for more than just organizational purposes! It actually helps to control the humidity in that zone of the fridge. One drawer should be kept more humid for vegetable storage. Fruit stored in the refrigerator should either be stored on a shelf or in a separate drawer with a drier climate than the vegetable crisper. Most fruits and vegetables should not be stored together. If vegetables are purchased in a plastic bag, either remove them from the bag or perforate the bag to allow for respiration. Vegetables should not be washed until preparation for consumption.

Lastly, I will need to brush up on my organizational skills and be purposeful in my purchases. It appears I am not the only one lacking in organization. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away nearly 31.6 million tons of food every year. How is your waste stream?

Pattie Stivender is education coordinator for Bluegrass PRIDE. She has worked with the organization for five years.

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