89.1 WEMU

Issues Of The Environment: Reducing Food Waste On Thanksgiving And Helping The Hungry

Nov 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftovers
Credit Ard Hesselink / flickr.com

While many families will be feasting on Thanksgiving Day, there are hungry people going without. It is also a holiday in which a lot of food waste is generated. In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks to Noelle Bowman, solid waste specialist for Washtenaw County, about the best ways to help others and responsibly deal with those Thanksgiving leftovers.


FOOD TO DONATION

There is an organization in Washtenaw County called Food Gatherers.  It redistributes food that would ordinarily go to landfills to local emergency pantries and other meal programs to help the hungry.  

Food Gatherer’s rescues and redistributes an average of 28 tons of food per week.  About 1 in 7 of our neighbors in Washtenaw County struggle with hunger, and more than 51,000 individuals, including more than 11,000 children, are food insecure in Washtenaw County.  About 58% of households served report having to choose between paying for food and paying for medicine/medical care.  About 56% report having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities.  

FOOD TO RECYCLE 

The very phrase “food waste” implies that there’s an inefficiency.  When you’re wasting something, that means you’re not getting the most use out of it.  When it comes to food, to prevent food waste, eat it!!  Don’t make more than you can eat.  Use leftover turkey for pot-pies and sandwiches. 

One common trend has become deep-frying turkeys.  While this is delicious, it does create waste vegetable oil, or what we call FOGs (Fats, oils, greases).  

FOG's come from meats, butters and margarine, lard, food scraps, sauces, salad dressings, dairy products, and cooking oil.  When FOG goes down the drain, it hardens and causes sewer pipes to clog.  This can lead to a sanitary sewer overflow where raw sewage actually backs up into your home, lawn, neighborhood, and streets.  Not only does this nasty mess cause health issues, it also can run into a nearby stream or river, which affects our drinking water.  If your pipes become clogged from putting FOG down the drain, it can be very expensive problem to fix.  To avoid household and environmental damage as well as a costly bill, 

Washtenaw County offers vegetable oil recycling through their Home Toxics Reduction Program.  We partner with a company that collects used vegetable oil to convert into biofuel.  The fuel is used in Michigan agricultural settings.  Call 734-222.3950 to set up a drop-off appointment.  Also Recycle Ann Arbor’s Drop-Off Station collects vegetable oil for recycling, they can be reached at 734.971.7400.  Visit RECYCLE.EWASHTENAW.ORG 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu