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Waste Not Want Not This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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If your parents always made you sit at the kitchen table until you finished your dinner, the following announcement is certain to disturb you: Americans are wasting up to 40 percent of the country's food supply. It's a statistic that ought to outrage every member of the Clean Plate Club.

Excuses for wastefulness abound. The blueberries – now moldy fur-berries – were on sale at the farmers market, so you bought five containers. The neighbors dropped off seven pounds of zucchini from their garden. Those bananas surrounded by fruit flies? No time to reconstitute them into banana bread. Into the trash they go.

Sometimes great ambitions at the grocery store wither when faced with the prospect of actually cooking the food and then cleaning up. Grocery shopping is exhausting, after all. Can't we order Chinese? (You'll make the chicken casserole and green beans tomorrow.)

Even the more conscientious among us who stuff containers of leftovers into the freezer often resort to food wasting. What the heck is the frost-covered, freezer-burned item banished to the back of the shelf? Is it chicken soup or apple pie filling?

A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, estimates Americans waste $165 billion in food each year. The average family tosses 20 pounds per person, per month.

These numbers may sound exaggerated, but consider the garbage created from plate-scraping just one meal. Baked potato shells. Corners of New York strip steak. Asparagus stalks. That awful Waldorf salad with the raisins and the mayonnaise. If we don't like something, we just throw it away.

Food isn't the only thing we're ­wasting. Think of the energy it took to produce that food. Those moldy blueberries were planted, watered, cleaned, and trucked to the farmers market. The bananas were flown in from South America. All that work, for nothing – except to add to a landfill. The Natural Resources Defense Council's report says getting food to our tables consumes 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget.

And yet, as a whole, Americans are heavier than ever. Apparently, we aren't throwing away the cheeseburgers, fries, and ice cream sandwiches. Are you kidding? We lick the wrappers.

No, it's the fresh fruit and vegetables that end up in the garbage.

According to the report, the United Kingdom and European Union are making food waste a top issue. A U.K. education campaign called “Love Food Hate Waste” is raising awareness and driving down consumption. For example, thanks to this campaign, businesses (think family-style Italian restaurants) are doing a better job of identifying ways to reduce food-as-trash.

As consumers, we can help by buying scarred or damaged fruits and vegetables. We can plan our meals better and make them smaller. And we can make more pots of “garbage soup.” You know, the recipe where you throw everything from the fridge into the crockpot.

Our grandmas would be proud.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the November 2013 Teen Ink Environment Contest.




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asofnowThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm
This is really good. I especially enjoy the tone within this essay. Great job!
 
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