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How to Reduce Your Thanksgiving Food Waste

How to reduce food waste on Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving is a good time to enjoy food, company and conversation. Unfortunately, according to Feeding America, 37 million people are food insecure in the United States (nearly 11 million of them are children). According to a 2017 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), this is a shocking statistic, especially considering that 34-40% of the food produced in the country each year is not eaten.

This Thanksgiving, let us do our part and strive to do this. Whether you own a restaurant, grocery store, or other business that often finds yourself throwing away food waste, or you just want to know how to reduce Thanksgiving food waste in family dinners, please read on Rubicon's tips on how to deal with your Thanksgiving Leftovers and food waste.

Where to donate Thanksgiving food

If you buy too much food for the Thanksgiving dinner and there are some leftovers (as does almost every American!), you can donate it to the local food bank to ensure it is not wasted.

Feeding America has an online tool on its website that makes it easy to search for the person closest to you in its nationwide network of food banks. Feeding America “distributes 4.3 billion meals through pantry and meal plans across the United States each year”, so they are a good place to start your search.

If you own a business that produces food waste, you might also want to check out a food donation startup such as Goodr, Copia, and Spoiler Alert. Increasingly, data and technology are used to simplify and efficiently donate food.

After finding the food bank closest to you, check their drop-off time and the items they need most at the moment. As a general rule, Feeding America points out that the foods that food banks are most interested in around Thanksgiving are "healthy, non-perishable" foods, especially:

Instant mashed potatoes, canned vegetables, boxed stuffing, dried macaroni, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin

Don't worry about donating too much; even if your food is not used during Thanksgiving, it will run out quickly.

How to prepare Thanksgiving dinner to minimize food waste

Now that you have donated any food you don't need, it's time to see how to best prepare Thanksgiving dinner to minimize the amount of wasted food. Think of this as your strategic plan for next year's Thanksgiving dinner!

Here are some suggestions from my colleagues and Rubicon®:

Check what you already have: You will be surprised at what you find in the pantry or refrigerator. Before running out at the last minute to get what you need, look around to see if you already have it or an equally effective equivalent. Understand the difference between expiration date formats: you will most likely want something that is completely edible after the expiration date is thrown away. Embrace vegetable skins: With a few exceptions, vegetable skins can be eaten without spoiling the taste of individual vegetables or the dishes they contain. Mashed potatoes with skins are a particularly delicious food. Create a meal plan for rare and unique ingredients: If you find yourself buying rare and unique ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner that are unlikely to be used up, plan ahead for other recipes that you can use to avoid waste. Encourage smaller portions: Encourage your guests to use smaller plates and standard spoons instead of spoons to reduce portion sizes, which will greatly help reduce food waste this Thanksgiving.

When you try to minimize food waste while preparing your Thanksgiving dinner, you can also ensure that you don't waste money by throwing away perfect food.

What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

Of course, even after donating unwanted food and making sure to waste as little food as possible during the preparation and cooking stages, you will still leave some Thanksgiving food to waste.

According to "Waste Dive", Americans discard about 35% (204 million pounds) of edible turkey meat each year. Greenhouse gas emissions from travel go to San Francisco."

Leftovers usually cannot be donated, so it’s important that you have a plan for Thanksgiving leftovers (and leftovers at any other time of the year). The following are our recommendations:

Keep the bones and vegetable skins in stock-if you think you won't be able to get them temporarily, freeze them. Ask your guests to bring their own food storage containers to take home leftovers from Thanksgiving. If there is a lot of leftover food, consider making a miniature Thanksgiving meal in everyone’s container. Any food remaining after the guest leaves should be refrigerated and/or frozen, depending on how fast you believe they can be eaten. If you have pets, please feel free to give them any leftovers that are safe to eat. If you still have leftovers at this time, compost them! If you are a business, see below how Rubicon's food waste recycling program can help compost.

Rubicon's food waste solution

At Rubicon, we launched a food waste recycling program in which we worked with companies of all sizes to find solutions to food waste challenges, including assisting state and federal food waste laws and regulations.

If you own a restaurant, grocery store, or any other business that often finds you throwing away food waste, we can help you become a food donor so that you can pick up food on a convenient schedule that suits your business.

Reducing food waste during Thanksgiving is a step in the right direction of a circular economy, which can reduce our environmental impact and help solve food insecurity.

All Rubicon staff wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day.

Ryan Cooper is Rubicon's waste transfer manager and head of organic recycling.To stay ahead of the new global partnerships and cooperation announced by Rubicon, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us immediately.

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