As a full-time Dietetics and Food Administration, Nutrition and Nutritional Science Option, BS student at California State University, Long Beach, and intern at Food Finders, nutrition and reducing hunger and food waste are an important part of my life.  I learned in my junior year of school at California State, Long Beach how many people in the United States go to bed hungry every night, so many of them children, and my heart broke. I knew then that my passion for nutrition and eating for wellness was not all I was passionate about.

 I quickly became vested in learning how I could not only educate people on the benefits of healthy eating but also reducing food waste, repurposing food, and getting food to those in need. 

I realized that my knack for meal planning and shopping on a limited budget was something that I understand and was a big part of helping people to reduce food waste. The question for me was how could I combine these two skills and make a bigger impact. 

Food Waste is a Problem

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States with the vast majority of waste occurring in the home. Poor planning and expiration dates on the food we purchase are large contributors.  Many would rather toss food they aren’t sure about, which affects the environment’s equity, than risk getting a foodborne illness.  

Repurposing, Resources, and Education is the answer!

We work hard to plan and implement food repurposing through the Partner Agency Coordinators. 

Additionally, we are working hard to provide education and resources that explain not only how to properly store food but how to interpret the various expiration dates we see on food such as “use by”, ‘sell by”, etc. 

The FoodKeepers application supported by the USDA is a great resource to help people sort through the confusing world of labels and dates.  It can help you not only interpret the varying expiration date labels, but also can explain the best storage methods for various foods to reduce waste. 

Meal Planning

Meal planning is one of the biggest ways that all of us can stop food waste. Who hasn’t gone to the grocery store hungry and bought more than they needed?

When you plan your meals or even just your shopping, it reduces food waste.  And don’t forget that planning ahead is also easy on your wallet—a big plus! By planning your meals for the week and then creating your shopping list based on your meals can cut waste by 15% or more.  

Here’s a recipe that will guide you to the deliciousness of potato peel chips.  Not only are they delicious but you are reducing food waste by repurposing your peels into a crunchy snack or appetizer that has a ton more potassium and magnesium than the flesh of the potato as well as 12 times the antioxidants, so eat up.

Tip For Cutting Food Waste

  • Shop the grocery store’s weekly ads. With the cost of food up by 25% or more, finding proteins that are on sale that week is where I start my meal planning.
  • I do NOT go to the store hungry. Going grocery shopping hungry guarantees I will buy some overpriced and over-processed snack that I promptly eat on the way home.  This not only takes me out of budget but is unhealthy.  
  • I stick to my list.
  • I prepare my fruits and veggies for the week.  If I have salads planned I pre-cut and wash my lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, and cucumbers. I also wash and cut up any melons or fruit for the week as well.  Doing this makes busy weeks easier and allows for a nutritious snack of fruit that is easy to grab.

Nutrition Talks Program

This is all information I use when in our Nutrition Talks Program with our partner agencies.  I do a basic overview of nutrition and its importance with interactive tools that keep people engaged in what they are learning. One example is my Nutrition Facts Label workshop which starts with a scavenger hunt looking for a pantry item with a nutrition facts label and ties up with a Q & A on what was learned.  This month I will be visiting Long Beach City College for an interactive demonstration on how to repurpose fruits and vegetables. 

Working with the City of Long Beach to get nutrition education to Long Beach City College is just one way we do our part to reduce waste by repurposing food.  It isn’t enough that we are getting food into the hands of those in need but also to educate them on the many nutrient-dense meals that can be created while reducing waste.   

#StopFoodWasteWednesday #nutritiontalks #tipsforzerowaste #foodfindersinc #LBrecovers #healthyactivelongbeach

Kelly Alarcon, Student at California State University, Long Beach with a concentration in Nutrition and Nutritional Science has a passion for showing others the path to wellness through nutrition while reducing hunger and food waste.