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Food Rescue Workgroup gives strategies to save food from landfills

A table with Thanksgiving food served on it. There are rolls on a pan in the middle of the image and a salad bowl, chips, ham and a veggie tray surrounding the rolls.
Anna Johnson
All the food you don't eat is food waste.

Utah State University’s Hunger Solutions Institute recently created a Food Recovery Workgroup focused on preventing food waste. Carrie Durward, a nutrition specialist with USU Extension, is part of the workgroup.

“The majority of food waste that happens in the U.S. is at the level of the consumer, which includes both waste in the home as well as waste that comes from cafeterias and restaurants,” she said, “We're not typically breaking it down and turning it into something else. We're just trying to get edible food into the hands of people who can use it.”

Sean Damitz, USU’s community engagement executive director, says there are already programs in place at Utah’s universities to rescue food from being wasted. Uneaten food from USU’s Dining Services catering can end up at the Student Nutrition Access Center rather than in the trash or a compost bin.

Durward says putting your leftovers away in the fridge is the first step to keeping them out of the trash. But how can you prevent your fridge from filling up with containers of uneaten food you’ll have to throw away later?

“My number one suggestion to people would be to try meal planning. Plan out your meals for the week before you go grocery shopping and only buy the ingredients you need,” she said.

And if you’re thinking of throwing something away because it's past its best-by date, you may want to reconsider.

“We think of them as expiration dates but in the U.S. that’s not what those dates mean. After that date, the food has not gone bad. It’s not unsafe. It might be lower quality after that date. But you can still totally eat it if it looks the way that you expect it to look when you open it,” Durward said.

Laura Holtrop Kohl, a board member for the food recovery nonprofit Waste Less Solution, said by changing your perspective on your food, you can change your habits.

"When you’re bringing food into your home, you’re seeing it as a responsibility to use it," Kohl said.

Anna grew up begging her mom to play music instead of public radio over the car stereo on the way to school. Now, she loves radio and the power of storytelling through sound. While she is happy to report on anything from dance concerts to laughter practice, her main focus at UPR is political reporting. She is studying Journalism and Political Science at Utah State University and wants to work in political communication after she graduates. In her free time, she spends time with her rescue dog Quigley and enjoys rock climbing.