This summer, the headlines about climate change and drought, here in California and around the world, have become increasingly dire. Reservoir levels are low, temperatures are high, and so are food prices.
We hear a lot about buying locally grown food, which saves fuel used in transportation and supports local farmers. But how do you get the most out of what you buy?
With an eye on climate change, Whitney Reuling of the nonprofit Sonoma Family Meal is sure a class on Thursday, August 25 can help, teaching people how to reduce food waste. (Disclosure: Heather Irwin, editor of Press Democrat Dining, founded and still works with Sonoma Family Meal.)
“Food production is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, contributor to climate change,” she said, referring to water and fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. “To waste food is simply to waste precious resources. And given the state of the world, we have nothing to waste.
To help people get the most out of their food, Sonoma Family Meal Chef Heather Ames will demonstrate how to cook with vegetables and other perishables that might otherwise end up thrown away or in the compost bin. See box for more details.
“The course is less about using leftover food and more about using perishable foods before they spoil,” Reuling said. “And that requires creative cooking techniques, planning ahead, and checking your fridge before you go to the store, to avoid over-buying.
“Collectively, the United States wastes more than $400 million worth of food a year,” Reuling said, citing Feeding America, a national network of food banks.
The most common food scraps in the trash, Reuling said, are fresh herbs, vegetable stalks, Swiss chard, kale and broccoli. Got leftover broccoli stalks? You can make the Broccoli Tots recipe from Ames, which follows. The remaining chard stalks can become a chard stalk gratin. And just about any leftover vegetable can be turned into a versatile vegetable broth, with a little advice from Ames on which vegetables to use and which to avoid.
UC Master Food Preservers of Sonoma County, a volunteer group focused on how to preserve food safely at home, taught a similar course in July and showed participants how to use leftover apples and leftover vegetables. and herbs.
“Food waste is a big problem in our country (and county),” Tobi Brown, a volunteer with Master Food Preservers, said in an email. “Wasted food often ends up in landfill. When it breaks down, it releases a byproduct of methane gas, which exacerbates climate change.
Using food wisely is paramount, Brown said.
“We need to reduce the amount of food we buy or grow to fit what our family can eat,” he said.
Brown has a large garden and grows much of her family’s produce for the year. But he also reassessed how badly he needs to grow.
“I thought I was using all the bounty in the garden well until I seriously considered what I was giving to my chickens or the compost heap,” he said. “It’s amazing the savings you can make if you eat locally, seasonally and save the rest for the rest of the year.”
Avoid waste for all
Denise Toll signed up for the Sonoma Family Meal course because she wants to learn about gleaning, in which people, usually volunteers, collect leftover produce from fields after harvest, from fruit trees in the neighborhood and other places to donate.
The next class makes her think about what she throws away and who doesn’t have enough to eat.
“I worked with a group in Portland that gleaned fruits and vegetables and provided food for people in need in the city,” said the retired Petaluma teacher. “I’m ashamed to say that it’s the vegetable matter that I waste the most. I quickly compost brown, soft and soggy plant matter.
With a fresh look at produce, Toll says, she’ll learn how to preserve food, peel her compost and save money.
Toll runs a local group called Cool Block Petaluma, where neighbors come together to share ideas on how to reduce their carbon footprint in their homes. Ames, a neighbor of Toll, is part of the group.
“By taking this class with Heather Ames, I hope to find volunteer opportunities to support our community,” Toll said.
Food Insecurity in Sonoma County
Rachelle Mesheau of the Redwood Empire Food Bank said food insecurity — limited or uncertain access to enough food — is a major challenge in Sonoma County right now. His organization, the largest food bank in our region, currently serves more than 100,000 people, and that number has grown under the economic pressures brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.