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Reduced Food Waste Starts In The Home
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Individuals and families can answer the recent national call to reduce the amount of food wasted.
Dr. Melissa Mixon, extension food safety specialist at Mississippi State University, said Americans have many reasons for throwing away a significant amount of food.
"We throw some food away because of an increased concern for food safety, and if there's the least doubt about a food's safety, people should throw it out," Mixon said.
A lot of food is thrown away because it has stayed in the refrigerator too long and gone bad. Mixon attributed many leftovers to busy schedules and large portions at restaurants.
"Families may be home just one or two nights a week to cook, then because of social activities and work, may not be together again for five or six nights to eat leftovers," she said.
Planning is the solution to waste in this situation.
"map out the week's schedule on paper," Mixon said. "Anticipate when you will be home and when you will be out.
"When you do have leftovers, they'll be planned-overs for the next days' meals," Mixon said. "You can't just throw the leftovers in the refrigerator and hope they will fit themselves in the remainder of the weekly meals."
Another way to reduce waste is to prepare smaller portions, and freeze any leftovers as TV dinners for quick meals later.
Mixon said excessive portions at restaurants contribute to waste, leftovers and overeating. Discard food left at room temperature for two hours or more, including time on the table and en route home, no matter how good or how much is left.
"Frugality should never take the place of food safety," Mixon said.
Reduce food wasted at restaurants by buying individual food items rather than complete meals which may include items the buyer does not want. If a diner wants a large entree, split it with a friend.
"Because Americans have the most variety in our food supply, we have gotten accustomed to choosing what we like and discarding the rest," Mixon said. "Food waste is not a survival issue like it is in some countries."
A further step parents can take is to teach children by example how to reduce food waste.
"We think nothing of throwing food out, and we're teaching our children that if you don't want to eat something, pitch it," Mixon said. "We need to teach them to be more selective in their food choices so they can reduce waste."