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  • Writer's pictureKristin Cole

3 Ways the Community is Stepping up to Prevent Food Waste

Amidst the overwhelming backdrop of negativity and fear, I am intentionally trying to step away from these influences and instead, to reflect on the silver linings this time has to offer. When it comes to food waste, specifically, I've noticed three things coming out of this period that hint to positivity in our life ahead.

1) Home and community gardens are beaming with edible food!

As I walk around the neighborhood, I can't help but notice so many residents (of all generations), lovingly tending their yards or garden plots and growing beautiful seasonal produce, herbs, and flowers to share. The act of connecting our hands to the soil and seedlings is incredibly nourishing, and needed, at this time. Because we've mostly been deprived of caressing touch or a comforting embrace, that tactile sensation is one that we're finding respite in nature.

It's so inspiring to see these "Victory Gardens," originally made popular during both World Wars, making their surge again during our own time of despair. Let's continue this trend to replace water-demanding lawns with edible gardens so that we can build the foundation for a more sustainable food ecosystem. Additionally, teaching our kids the power of growing their own food is one that should be part of every at-home curriculum. So many lessons to be learned: responsibility, caretaking, self-empowerment, resourcefulness, and the value of patience. By showing up for the plants daily, we witness their incredible transformative power and resilience - much like us humans who will thrive by adapting in these changing times.

My favorite aspect of home gardening is that it trains our senses to harvest at just the right moment and to use ALL parts of a plant since we already poured so much love into growing it. Why stop there? We must get creative in the kitchen and explore how best to savor the plant's entirety. However, I may have to have a chat with some of my neighbors on how best to cook the underappreciated leaves and stalks of broccoli as I see those being left in the gardens more often than I'd like!

2) Farmers Markets are serving up produce in pre-packaged bunches - all so beautifully imperfect.

Think twisty, gnarly carrots, tomatoes with deep cracks, fingerling potatoes of all colors and sizes. No longer does our sense of touch (personally, my strongest sense) serve us in the new farmers market setup. It's now "look and point". No slow meandering and sampling. The mentality is simply "get in-get out". But did you know that farm stands in other countries have long been adhering to this contact-less exchange? In a way, I'm glad that us Americans are finally coming around.

The lesson here is that we must trust our local farmers and learn to embrace their lovingly grown food with all of its unique and natural markings. They hand-picked these beautiful ingredients and know best what flavor bombs are hiding beneath a sometimes imperfect shell.

I am ecstatic that funky-looking produce is having its much-deserved moment. And from this "moment", our mentality as consumers will be forever changed as it becomes normalized. Let's rupture our notions of beauty once and for all and learn to love unconditionally.

3) Supermarkets are repurposing salad bars to help local farms avoid food loss on their fields.

If we zoom out from home gardens and farmers markets, let's take a peek into larger chain grocery stores to witness a sign of hope. I walked through the produce department of my local Harris Teeter and was captivated by the former self-serve salad bar that now housed a full selection of North Carolina bounty! I looked up the name of the farm on my phone to validate its farming practices ("organic" without the official title) and was quite impressed. Elated, I loaded my basket with gorgeous yellow squash, white-fleshed sweet potatoes, prickly cucumbers and a head of lettuce grown hydroponically, roots still attached. The price of each item was equivalent to conventional produce which I was also surprised by. This moment of ingenuity truly stood out and will hopefully gain traction for the food system on a larger, corporate scale. I hope this trend continues to bring the bounty of farmers markets to more communities!


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