As we discussed earlier this week, food waste is a major problem in the U.S. It’s financial and environmental burden takes its toll daily. Families with young children are more likely to waste food and therefore have a greater impact on the food waste epidemic. That’s why we’re offering solutions to help you avoid food waste with kids. Check out our previous blog on tips for babies and toddlers and see below for more good advice with older children.
How to Avoid Food Waste with Preschoolers and Beyond
- Talk to your kids about food waste. Children are often eager to learn about their impact on the world. Read them statistics from the internet or show them short videos about food waste so they start to grasp the gravity of the problem.
- Participate in a food waste challenge. You can find programs online or develop your own. Essentially, you will fill containers (such as empty lettuce or deli meat bins, or resealable bags) and record how much food is wasted each week. Seeing and measuring your own food waste can be an eye-opening experience for kids.
- Encourage your kids to help you meal plan so you can shop efficiently for your weekly meals.
- Play a game with your kids where you consider various uses of ingredients to ensure none of them go to waste. For instance, if you’re serving beans for taco night, what can you do with the leftovers? Perhaps make a bean dip or bean soup? You can also do this with parts of foods. Example: steam the broccoli florets and shred the stalk for salads.
- Make a plan with your kids to eat the most perishable foods first so they don’t rot before you have a chance to enjoy them. This may mean refrigerated produce gets eaten first and other produce like melons, apples and pears can wait until the end of the week.
- Just like babies and toddlers, serve small portions at a time. If your kids want more you can continue to dish out additional small portions.
- Cut fruits and vegetables into small pieces for meals and snacks. An apple with a few bites out of it may become trash but if you give your child a few slices of an apple you can save the rest.
- Take your kids to a farm to see how food is grown. The more they understand the process, the more likely they are to engage in the solution.
- Grow your own food. Even small vegetable gardens or a few simple potted vegetable plants can teach your children to thoroughly enjoy the fruits of their labor.
- Compost your waste as a family. There are great science and environmental lessons in composting.
- Get your kids busy in the kitchen. Children who participate in cooking are more likely to eat their own masterpieces.
- When fruits are about to expire, make food concoctions with them such as smoothies or baked goods.
- Save one night a week to eat leftovers. Anything not finished from previous meals can become an eclectic smorgasbord for your family.
- Give foods a funny name. When kids perceive foods as fun, they are more likely to eat them.
- Always take a doggy bag home from restaurants if you have leftovers. Even just one slice of pizza can be a great snack for the following day.
- Encourage your kids to not waste at school too. For school-bought lunches let them know it’s OK to only take what they think they can eat. If they bring a packed lunch, ask them to bring home whatever they don’t eat.
- Set a good example by not wasting food yourself.
- If you have too much food that you know will go to waste, invite a friend over for dinner or take food to neighbors before it goes bad.
- Start an anti food waste campaign with your children. Get friends, schools and community groups involved so you can all make a difference together.
Inspire your family to avoid food waste and let them inspire you too. Everyone can play a part in keeping food waste at a minimum to reduce the financial and environmental impact on our world.
Sources: Feeding America, Bloomberg, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I Value Food, MSNBC, Super Kids Nutrition and USDA