Examining Your Plate: Considering the Environmental Impacts of Your Meal

Blogging about the issues that Farm to Freezer tackles has made me more conscious of the environmental impacts of individual purchasing choices we, as consumers make every day.

Food Waste
I recently dedicated an entire post to food waste since the Natural Resources Defense  Council’s (NRDC) Report “Wasted” found that Americans throw away 40% of our food annually.  This amount of wasted food is not only shocking because so many people in our country suffer from food insecurity. In addition it is a huge waste of energy and water, leading to greater amounts of methane gas emitted into landfills.  As Farm to Freezer continues to redirect surplus produce in farmers markets from landfills to frozen, healthy meals for the underserved population, it is reducing the amount of resources wasted and emissions polluting the earth.  Think about the ripple effects, the next time you buy too many carrots and they end up in the trash.  According to a study by Raz Godelnik, “Americans Feel Guilty About Wasting Food But Will That Change Anything?”, we are ashamed by the amount of food we waste in this country.  In fact, the study found 39% of Americans feel guilt, however this is clearly not enough motivation as we continue to fill out trash cans with food waste.  How might you reduce your food waste?

Food Miles
How far is your food traveling?  This is always a good question to ask since any food that travels by air is going to have a higher carbon footprint and larger impact compared to by ship.  The best option is to buy food from local farms. While there is no precise definition of “local”, is it is often considered to be within 100 miles. The State of Maryland defines local as anything produced within its state boarders.  Local spring produce is beginning to appear at farmers’ markets, produce stands and some grocery stores this month. Noticing where your food comes from when shopping will open your eyes to what is in season and what is not.  If we start shopping for food that is in season then we will be able to buy from more local farms. You can use this Maryland calendar reference to find out what is in season in our area throughout the year.  Shopping at farmers markets and produce stands not only provide you with food that did not have to travel far and is typically fresher and minimally processed foods have a smaller carbon footprint as well.  The preservatives and packaging of processed foods uses energy and produces more greenhouse gases.

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Roasted eggplant is vacuum-sealed and ready for the freezer to preserve its flavor and shelf life.

When the winter months come many people find the choice of fresh fruits and vegetables too slim to purchase locally.  However, if you plan ahead of time by preparing and freezing vegetables at their peak of ripeness, when they are less expensive can really pay off in the cold months.

Overall, we can all do our part to reduce our impact on the earth by being aware of what is on our plate.  It takes resources and energy to produce every ingredient so picking dishes that have smaller carbon footprints and require less finite resources even once a week can make a difference without sacrificing taste or quality.  Farm to Freezer’s mission is to address hunger in our area by redirecting food that would otherwise go to waste and cause more environmental damage.  When we sit down to enjoy a locally-sourced meal that we’ve shopped,  cooked, and served, we can enjoy it even more, knowing that what tastes good is also good for the planet.

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