In this article, Erin Silver, author of Good Food Bad Waste: Let’s Eat for the Planet shares her top tips for kids (and everyone) to help address the issue of food waste and its alarming consequences.
The idea for Good Food Bad Waste came from my fridge. One day I opened it up and realized I’d bought too much food. I hadn’t made a list before I went shopping. I hadn’t put anything in the freezer. And I hadn’t eaten any leftovers. I started wondering how much might go to waste. I thought to myself: if this is a problem in my family, was it a problem in other families too?
I did some research and found that food waste is a big problem in households around the world. We waste so much food—about $1500 worth every year, much of which could have been eaten. I thought about all the resources, like water, land and transportation, that were used to make all the food we don’t eat, and all the people who would be happy to have food we don’t think twice about throwing away and realized that food waste is bad for people and that planet.
The good news is there’s a lot we can do about it. With a few simple changes to how we shop, eat and even organize our cupboards, we can cut food waste and make a big difference. Writing this book took me on a food waste journey, and I’m excited to share some of the best tips I learned along the way!
1. Understand expiry dates
My kids look at expiry dates and assume it means the food has gone bad. Depending on what it is, it could still be perfectly good to eat. Use your senses to see if the food looks mouldy and smell it to see if it smells funny. That’s a better way to tell!
2. Preserve leftovers
If we can’t eat all the leftovers or fresh produce, I freeze them. It turns out there’s a lot of food you can freeze to keep it fresher longer, including bread, nuts and even milk.
3. Make a plan
Before I shop, I make a list of what I need, then see if any of it is hiding in my pantry. A lot of the time I find food I didn’t know I had. I save money and avoid waste in the process!
4. Take stock
I often find duplicates of shelf-stable foods, like pasta or beans, in my cupboard. I round it up a few times a year and donate it to the food bank, rather than let it sit in my cupboard. I like knowing the food is going to people who need it.
5. Bruises aren’t bad
Sometimes fruits and vegetables in my fridge get bruised or start to turn brown. It’s still good to eat! I cut away the bad parts to compost and eat the rest. There’s no reason to throw it all away!
I hope this book and these tips will help readers realize they can make a big impact and take a bite out of food waste—starting today!
Erin Silver is a children’s author and freelance writer whose work has appeared in everything from Good Housekeeping to the Washington Post. She is the author of numerous books for children, including Rush Hour: Navigating Our Global Traffic Jam in the Orca Footprints line, as well as What Kids Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19 and Proud to Play: Canadian LGBTQ+ Athletes Who Made History. Erin holds a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction from the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a postgraduate journalism degree from Toronto Metropolitan University and a bachelor of arts from the University of Toronto.
Photo by Justine Apple.