Headlines sometimes catch my eye and sometimes they don't. One did last week in an opinion piece in the Star Tribune, although it was the subhead that was more compelling.
The main headline: There's no excuse for the food you're wasting. The subhead: On average, you toss out 400 pounds of food a year But there are things you, the government and the private sector can do about it
Okay, wait a minute, I thought to myself. In a bad year I might toss out five pounds of food. That means someone else has to throw away an extra 395 pounds to keep up that average, if it is accurate,
Amanda Little, a professor of journalism and science writing at Vanderbilt University, authored the piece in the Strib. She wrote that, on average, Americans were tossing away more than a pound of uneaten food per person each day, amounting to about 400 pounds per year (The math tells me that in a four-person family that would be 1,600 pounds. Or, like in my nine-person family back in the '50s and '60s, that would have been 3,600 pounds a year.)
I don't know about you but those figures seem quite high. Our family, in fact, subsisted with a huge garden that found us eating fresh vegetables daily during the right time of year, canning forever and ever for the months ahead, and making use of a root cellar where we stored potatoes, carrots and onions. Our basement was filled with shelves that were four high and the canned goods there kept us well stocked with healthy food until nearly the next summer.
If you want to make the argument that not every family did that, fine. Still, doesn't 400 pounds per person sound questionable?
Little, also the author of a Bloomberg Opinion series on the fate of food after COVID-19, as well as a book about what we'll eat in a "bigger, hotter, smarter world," says Americans waste about 50% more food per capita than France and nearly double that of the U.K. She reports that according to our government's estimates, the cost of food waste is about $161 billion annually.
She notes in her next paragraph that millions of Americans have lost their jobs and that 98% of food banks in the U.S. are reporting demand increases, while 37% report critical shortfalls. She writes at length about a 2015 collaborative plan by the USDA, EPA and FDA to cut food waste by 50% by 2030, a plan endorsed by the Trump administration. She also writes that food donations by famers, restaurants, schools and markets could cut down greatly on food waste if the government would limit civil and criminal liability for those making such donations.
And then she got to a point with which I agree, that of clearing the confusion about expiration dates on perishable foods, which she says vary widely from state to state. She quotes someone at the Harvard Law School as saying that supermarkets lose about $1 billion a year because of food that expires in theory, but not in reality, before it's sold.
I recently pulled out four frozen chicken breasts that had found their way to the back of the refrigerator freezer and had a "best if used" date of sometime in early 2019. They were fine. I'll admit to overbuying items on sale and also recently used a boxed meal that was six months past the expiration date, and a can of vegetables that was 14 months past the date stamped on it. No, I'm not advocating that people do that, just that those dates are meaningless in many cases. There are some who go by those dates.
There is a bill pending in the U.S. House that would standardize dozens of different date-labeling laws, but it has been put on hold because of the pandemic. Little wrote in her piece in the Tribune that there is an idea that would allow farmers to receive a tax credit, rather than a deduction, for donating surpluses to food banks. She also writes at extreme length about bans on organic waste and surcharges for landfills that have been effective in California for reducing waste.
"Of course," she wrote, "consumers hold the greatest responsibility in reducing food waste. Forty percent of all wasted food comes from homes, and most of what gets tossed is perishable produce, dairy and meats." She makes the reasonable point that changing buying behaviors would help cut that waste down.
Little writes that buying mottled or misshapen fruits and vegetables would help cut down on waste and says they taste just as good "and may be better for you." I'm not sure why they would be better for you. But then, I'm not a food expert.
Who of us hasn't put green tomatoes into a paper grocery bag and, a few days later, ended up with perfectly good tomatoes that might otherwise have gone to waste. I do it every August and/or September.
I just read through the whole Tribune piece again and agree with the last paragraph that says for decades many Americans have taken an overabundance of fresh foods for granted. But it's still hard for me to believe, even if it is an average, that each of us tosses 400 pounds of food away each year.
Don't tell anybody but I'm going to go through the cupboard and the freezer to see if there's anything there I should use real soon before it becomes even more outdated.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
July 29, 1965 — Val Carlson won the women's championship at Rum River Golf Club with an 88 . . . The Legion baseball team finished the season 12-5 after losing in the second round of the North End playoffs. The team was 10-4 in league play. George Sanford led with a .366 average.
July 29, 1970 — The Princeton Legion baseball team swept its third straight doubleheader, beating Cold Spring 3-2 and 6-0 before playoffs began. Ron Deglmann struck out 14 in the opener and Howie Solheim pitched the shutout in the second game, the team's seventh shutout of the season. Princeton had given up only 56 runs in 28 games to that point.
July 30, 1975 — Princeton (26-2) beat Braham, 10-8, and then beat Cambridge 12-2 and 7-1 to win the North End title in Legion baseball. Pete Steinhagen won two of the games, Keith Julson the other. Columnist Pete Finelli reported that Legion coach Howard Solheim had compiled a 269-127 career record in Princeton to that point.
July 31, 1980 — Tom Peterson won his seventh men's title at Rum River Golf Club, his 147 edging Chuck Skarohlid by one stroke. Mark Bornholdt led going into the final nine but shot a 43 and Peterson had a 35 . . . Princeton (17-13) lost to Edina and Pine City in District 10 Legion playoffs . . . Ziggy's (63-11) won the men's city softball playoffs, and a berth in the district tournament, with five straight wins after being upset early in the tournament.
Aug. 1, 1985 — The Princeton Legion team beat Pine City 11-1 to wins its 11th North End playoff title in 13 years. Mickey Branchaud hit a grand-slam homer, Mack Savage got three hits and Tim Vagle pitched a six-hitter . . . Jay Perbix tied the nine-hole record at Rum River Golf Club with a 30 and also qualified for the state junior golf tournament by shooting a 77 at Bunker Hills.
Aug. 2, 1990 — The Princeton team won the Five Star golf competition with a score of 563 (six of eight scores used). Princeton's Judy Bornholdt was medallist with an 84 . . . Thirteen slow-pitch softball teams from Princeton qualified for district tournaments at different levels.
Aug. 3, 1995 — Jason Miller pitched a four-hit shutout and Brian Dorr drove in five runs as the Princeton Panthers beat Quamba 12-0 in league playoffs to advance to the region tournament . . . The Tier 1 Sandy Koufax baseball team from Princeton, which finished at 17-9, placed fourth in the state tournament.
July 27, 2000 — The Princeton team won the Five Star golf competition for the 10th time in 14 years. The competition was organized in 1965 with Milaca, Cambridge, North Branch and Mora. Helen Sanborn and RaeLee Johnson each shot a 91 to lead Princeton . . . The Princeton Panthers won their Eastern Minny division at 17-3 with a rallying 8-5 win over Hinckley. Jason Miller got the win and hit two homers. The team then beat the Forest Lake Lakers15-5 as Mark Beattie homered twice and had five RBIs, and Chad Campbell had five hits and drove in four runs . . . The Legion baseball team beat Pine City 10-3 and 11-10 to qualify for the District 10 tournament, Brent Julson striking out 13 in the 10-3 win.
Aug. 4, 2005 — The Princeton Panthers (19-7) beat Chisago Lakes 7-0 and 3-0 to earn a berth in the Region 1C tournament as Luke Bakken struck out 12 in the first game and Eric Deglman got the win in they second. Tony Stay had a homer and drove in three runs in the first game and Jesse Zimmer drove in two in the second game.
Aug. 5, 2010 — The Thompson Construction coed softball team from Princeton (28-2) won the state Class C championship at Sauk Rapids with a 4-1 record . . . The Princeton Panthers earned the top seed for the Region 1C tournament with wins of 8-5 over Hinckley and 11-9 over Isanti. Erik Ostmoe had three hits and Jesse Zimmer and Brian Dorr each drove in two runs in the win over Hinckley. In the Isanti win Mark Beattie drove in three runs and Dorr had three hits.
July 30, 2015 — The Legion baseball team (25-3) earned a trip to the state tournament with a 2-0 win pitched by Tanner Kinney in the Sub State 13 tournament at Solheim Veterans Field. The tournament began with Kinney striking out 16 in a 4-3 win over Zimmerman as Sam Archer homered. Then the team beat Becker 7-6 as Luke Hallbeck got the win and Archer homered again. Damon Rademacher then beat defending Sub State champ St. Francis 7-3 as Kinney made two diving catches in center field. Princeton advanced to the title game with a 5-4 win over Buffalo. Princeton led 4-0 but Buffalo tied it up in the seventh. before Kinney's single in the ninth drove in Gehrig Scheffel with the winning run.