1. What motivated your personal interest in sustainability and food waste reduction?
I spent half my childhood on a farm in Nebraska. Because my family was putting a lot of work into the food we were eating, I was a little more aware of when it was wasted. Last year, I started working for Compass Group as the company was kicking off the first annual Stop Food Waste Day. The team’s passion around food waste reduction inspired me to pay closer attention to my contribution to the waste problem. I realized that even though I grew up in a family that cared a lot about food, I wasn’t doing all that I could to stop food waste. That awareness pushed me to make changes in my shopping and eating habits. I love that I work for a corporation that cares so much about the well-being of the planet; it’s contagious!
2. Can you share a story about a food waste hero who inspired you?
My mother is the biggest food waste warrior I know. She developed a food allergy later in life that requires her to be extremely cautious about prepared foods. For that reason, she makes everything from scratch--from preparing her own deli meat and broths to homemade pasta and bread. She puts so much time and effort into each meal, she doesn’t waste any of it. She freezes veggie scraps and bones to use in her broths and stocks. She repurposes leftovers so effectively, you’d be surprised you ate that meal already. One of my favorite transformations was from this past Thanksgiving’s leftovers. She turned the turkey and stuffing into delicious nachos—a completely different meal using the ingredients from a meal we ate the day before. Even if I wanted to, it would be almost impossible to waste food around her because a lecture about how many ways you can use asparagus stalks will immediately follow.
3. What change have you made personally to be more mindful?
I’ve started taking more trips to the grocery store. I eat a lot of fresh vegetables, but they don’t last. Growing up in a large family, I was trained to buy in bulk. But since I’m typically cooking much smaller meals for myself, my veggies would often go bad before I got the chance to enjoy them. It takes a cognizant effort to plan my meals for the week and shop only for what I need for the next few days. Now, I plan meals around the fresh ingredients I have left in the fridge and avoid consuming any frozen items until the fresh ones are gone.
4. What will it take for America to make food waste a priority?
It’s all about awareness. Because we live in a world of abundance, we often times forget how much work goes into everything we eat. From the amount of resources it takes to grow a single avocado and the work farmers put into the food we purchase, to the number of people hungry or food-insecure here in America and around the world, those numbers should remain top-of-mind. From the impact on our environment to our wallets, the food waste problem effects every single person. With awareness, people are becoming even more passionate about the food waste problem. That passion will eventually result in common sense legislation around food waste and create positive food habits for all of us.
5. What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
Stop living by expiration dates. I lecture my friends all the time when I see them throwing out eggs or milk just because of the date on the carton. The “sell by” and “use by” dates have been around so long, we’ve been conditioned to live by them. You’ll know when milk is bad. You can test eggs before cracking them open to see if they’ve gone bad. If you find you are throwing out the same foods every time, adjust your shopping habits accordingly.