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Thursday, January 21, 2016


Imagine a family dinner of three with a menu that could be anything from grilled chicken to pasta salad. But, imagine if one of those family members didn’t eat their meal, and it had gone to waste. Sadly, those circumstances parallel American society. For decades, wasted food was been problem hiding in plain sight. Thankfully the issue of food waste has gradually become one the food industry, press and now politicians–are noticing.
Just this month, the separation of church and state was set aside when combating food waste. The Environmental Protection Agency on January 18th, 2016 launched the Food Steward's Pledge, an initiative to engage religious groups of all faiths to help redirect the food that ends up in landfills to hungry mouths. The EPA also partnered with the USDA back in September of 2015 at a joint event where USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and EPA deputy administrator Stan Meiburg announced a plan with a multifaceted way of getting there: reduce the country’s food waste by 50 percent by 2030.

According to US Government Figures, more than 1,200 calories per American per day are wasted. These losses occur on the farm, at the retail level and in homes. We consumers often toss out foods because they've passed their sell-by date — but are still just fine to eat — or because we buy more than we can eat before it goes bad. In addition, Food waste is the single biggest material in U.S. landfills, according to the U.S. Agricultural Department. As this waste decomposes, it releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
For many Americans, there are multiple reasons that they throw away food, including food that goes past its use by date, Food that has visibly gone bad, making too much food, and many more. According to Government Agencies like the EPA and the USDA, the key to reduce food waste at the consumer level is by changing behavior.  The EPA is engaging with faith-based groups to help make that change behavior in a variety of ways. For instance, when these organizations hold potlucks, the leftovers can go to the local food bank.

Given that food affects every single US Citizen in some shape of form, it’s easy for consumers to take action against food waste.  Government Agencies, Researchers, and other parties have found that there are simple ways to decrease food waste and save money, such as:

1. Grocery Shopping Realistically:

When going shopping, make sure you don't buy too much food. This may mean going to the grocery store more often, and buying less food each time. A good way of solidifying this is by planning out meals in advance, and making a detailed shopping list with the ingredients you'll need.

2. Saving and Eating Leftovers

Saving uneaten food when you either cook too much or you get too much food at a restaurant can help reduce food waste. Labeling leftovers can help keep track of how long they've been in your fridge or freezer. 

3. Don’t Over-Serve

The idea of massive portions is a problem in American Culture, and it’s consumers at home as well trickle into our homes. Refrain from over-serving friends and family when you're cooking meals. Using small plates can help with that.

4. Treat expiration and sell-by dates as guidelines

When it comes to expiration and sell-by dates, this is a tricky subject. Most Expiration dates identify with food quality, not food safety. The "sell by" label tells the store how long to display the product for sale. This is basically a guide for the retailer, so the store knows when to pull the item. This is not mandatory, so reach in back and get the freshest. The issue is quality of the item (freshness, taste, and consistency) rather than whether it is on the verge of spoiling.

5. Donate to food banks and farms.

Before you throw away excess food, look into food banks and charities where you can bring items you know you're not going to consume before they go bad, and give them to people in need. You can find local food banks through Feeding America and WhyHunger.

The good news about Food Waste, is that we as individuals can implement small changes that make a big difference in the amount of food we throw away each year.

Good Luck!


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Quiet Christmas

Pasture with goats

I awoke to the soft sound of a gentle rain falling against the windowsill.  It was my first day back home on our family farm after another semester at Kansas State University.  I eventually looked over at the clock, and after blinking twice noticed it was already 8:30 in the morning.  I nearly leapt out of bed to get dressed to help feed the animals before church.  But before I did, I noticed something. Other than the soft rain, the farm was quiet. 

As my brain resumed functioning, I remembered the decision our family had made to sell our livestock before winter hit.  Outside, only a single barn cat roamed the corrals once home to 80 meat goats and about a dozen cattle. 

This decision didn’t just come about overnight, but had been considered for a number of years.  The primary driver of selling our livestock was our small family farm did not produce enough to be profitable with the amount of labor it required.  As my older brother and I moved off to school, the brunt of the farm labor fell upon my mother, who put in hours a day taking care of the livestock.  During high demand times like kidding and calving seasons, the required work hours increased drastically.  In comparison with the earnings my mother could make working an hourly, entry-level position, running the family farm became unprofitable. 
I know this story isn’t just specific to us, but has been shared by thousands of small family farmers throughout the US in the past century.  Ever since the industrialization era, men and women have left the farm to find jobs and different lives in our quickly expanding cities.  Just as it was in the early 1900s, farming and ranching both produce commodities subject to the large variations of market prices.  A bad year in the market with low prices can do great damage to an agricultural producer, and if they do not have enough resources to last through hard times, they may have to sell out or face defaulting on loans. 

Because of these factors, relying solely on a system of small family farms to provide our entire nation’s food supply is unrealistic.  I am a full supporter of family farms, as they have provided me with great experiences that I will never forget and hope to provide for my own children someday.  As well, it is hard to beat fresh sweet corn picked from our own garden or a local farmers market.  But the belief that our entire food supply can be produced entirely by small, local farmers is unrealistic economically, unless America is willing to pay substantially more for their food.  Because larger farming operations are also great stewards of the land, I am a full supporter of them.  Larger farms have the resources necessary to survive market fluctuations and produce safe, plentiful, and inexpensive products raised as efficiently as possible.  There is room for all types of agricultural production systems in America, but we need to get over some of the economic fantasies presented in the media.

This Christmas, I did not have to run outside after a big Christmas dinner to feed our livestock in the cold.  I was missing the animals a little bit, but know that there are others that made the sacrifices to provide all the fixings for our Holiday celebration. 

Kyle Apley


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