Health column: Eat ugly food — save the planet |

Health column: Eat ugly food — save the planet

Mickie Hosack
Grand River Health
Mickie Hosack
Staff Photo |

I don’t know if it’s just me, but lately there seems to be a lot of stories in the media regarding how eating food that is misshapen, like crooked carrots or oblong oranges, can save the planet.

Every year about one-third of the food the world produces goes to waste. A large amount is wasted in the field during picking and sorting because it does not meet their buyer’s specifications, some is lost during storage and processing, and a substantial amount is tossed in the home because it was purchased and never consumed.

In fact, there is more than just food going to waste; roughly 45 trillion gallons of water are used to produce the food that goes to waste each year.

Many countries have campaigns to use “ugly” produce. Here in the U.S., Whole Foods has signed a contract with Imperfect Foods to test sales of “funky” produce, NPR reported. A company called Hungry Harvest was on the TV show “Shark Tank” earlier this year; they have saved 300,000 pounds of food from the landfill and donated 100,000 pounds of food to the needy.

While the worldwide numbers are staggering, I think it is best for us to talk about what we can do on a more personal level to reduce food waste and save money. According to a story reported by NBC News Today Money, 51 percent of American households throw away food they have purchased but never consumer, and a survey found Americans estimate $640 worth of food waste per household each year.

Here are a few practical tips that any of us can do personally to save money and the planet:

Buy only what you need. If you can’t make it to the store very often, consider using frozen produce to reduce waste.

If you have more than you need, consider giving to your local food pantry. Our local pantries accept non-perishables and fresh produce. You can also take produce from your garden as part of a county-wide initiative to glean food for people in need. Plant an extra row for those in need.

Look for produce in the bargain bin. The nutrients are the same even if it has a blemish or two.

Use fruits and vegetables past their prime in soups, stews or desserts. Freeze bananas to use in quick breads and smoothies. Freeze herbs in a single layer on paper plates. You can easily grab a few leaves for use in soups, on a roast or pasta dishes.

Collect scraps. Save your carrot and celery peels and meat bones in a container in the freezer to make delicious homemade broth when you have enough collected.

Have leftover night once a week.

Feed scraps to farm animals. Collect your tired vegetables and fruits and give to a friend with chickens or pigs.

Compost to enrich our soil and reduce stress on the landfills.

Mickie Hosack, RD, CDE, is the changing lifestyles coordinator at Grand River Health. She can be reached at 970-625-6219 or

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