Creative ways to prevent food waste, which is all too common and in a country where hunger is an issue, are being pursued by Google Kitchens. That’s right, Google has kitchens. It has employees to feed and since Google is on a sustainability mission, its kitchens offer an innovative way to help with the issue of food waste.
37 million Americans struggle with hunger, and poverty is the main issue contributing to these numbers. Children are more likely to face food insecurity than any other group in the United States. 58% of food-insecure households took part in at least one major federal food assistance program.
Food waste is definitely an issue, and one that needs to be addressed. About 1.3 billion pounds of food are wasted every year–these wasted foods also create greenhouse gases as it decays. Kristen Rainey, a Procurement & Resource Utilization Manager for Google’s Portland office tells Google’s Molly Seltzer that, “When you consider all of the resources that went into making the food that is ultimately wasted, it becomes clear that we have a problem.”
As a part of its sustainability blog, Google’s Molly Seltzer covered three ways to help cut back on food waste. Google has already prevented 6 million pounds of food waste since 2014, and now these strategies can help you and me join in. We can do this at home and those of you who are in food management for corporations could also apply these strategies in that setting.
4 Ways To Prevent Food Waste
In Google’s offices, the company partners with LeanPath. The system uses a camera to take photos of wasted food, has a scale that weighs it, and a tablet for a team member to enter any extra information. This may seem silly to an average person, but data is important. The data get uploaded and these numbers show Google what it needs to know about the food being wasted. Chefs can then make adjustments in the kitchen, such as holding off on purchasing ingredients that are wasted.
Do you sometimes shop while hungry and end up buying things that you don’t need? Perhaps you have done this and wound up throwing out rotted food that has been in your refrigerator for too long — food you bought because you thought you may use it and just forgot or didn’t want it.
Another solution on the topic of ingredients is that many grocery stores heavily discount produce that doesn’t look pretty or has some type of damage. Eventually, those end up being thrown away. Chefs at Google actually use those oddly shaped tomatoes or other vegetables. They also consider using the entire vegetable — from root to stem. They remind you to use as much of the food as possible so that it won’t end up in a landfill. You can do this at home as well. I don’t like the skin of a potato, but instead of throwing it away, we can use it in soups and stews for additional flavor.
3. Creativity In The Kitchen.
Instead of throwing out those leftovers, do something else with them. Another thought is to cook in small batches instead of large ones. If you are feeding a family of four, cook just enough to feed your family — with no leftovers. When I was married, my ex hated leftovers and they would often go into the trash. Today, I only cook for myself and if I have any leftovers, I often share with the neighbors. They do the same. Cook just what you need. And when it comes to that product that is getting close to being expired, remember — you can always freeze it!
4. Don’t Just Toss It.
If for some reason leftovers can not be used to create new dishes, then maybe donate them. Now, before you tell me, “If it’s past a certain amount of time, then it may not be legal to do so,” and this is true. However, if you know that it is perfectly safe to eat but you just don’t want it, find someone to give it to.
Also, many corporations and nonprofit organizations may not be aware of the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This protects you from liability when you donate food to a nonprofit organization. In 1996, President Clinton signed this act to help encourage donations of food and grocery products to nonprofit organizations for distribution to individuals in need. This law protects you from civil and criminal liability if the food that you’ve donated in good faith actually caused harm to the recipient.
Featured image by Cynthia Shahan