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To make sure our children and grandchildren have access to healthy, wholesome food, our first priority must be the sustainability of our food systems. Now, more than ever, an essential part of this shift is reining in the ballooning food waste problem. By reducing food waste, we can better divert food to hungry mouths, and help lower the greenhouse gas output of our food system.

Here are five facts about food waste that may surprise you:
  1. Food waste in industrialized countries is almost as high as the total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa (222 million tons compared to 230 million tons).
  2. The United States wastes about 40% of its edible food, amounting to about $165 billion worth of food each year.
  3. Reducing food waste by 15% would enable us  to feed more than 25 million additional people, at a time when 1 in 6 Americans doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from.
  4. Food scraps in landfills cannot break down naturally,  but instead produce methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.
  5. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after the US and China.
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If you’re motivated to tackle the food waste problem, one of the best places to start is in your own grocery cart, by reworking your approach to shopping and cooking. The menu plan and recipe list accompanying the Oldways Cart, our visual guide to healthy grocery shopping, is a crash course in resourcefulness and waste diversion.

Ensuring that no vegetable gets left behind, chopped zucchini and onions are used in a Veggie Wrap on Day One, then mixed into a Stir Fry on Day Four. Day Two’s Roast Chicken makes an appearance in Day Three’s Mango Curried Chicken Salad Wraps. Dried cranberries show up in Day Four’s Steel Cut Oatmeal, and Day Five’s Acorn Squash Halves Stuffed with Quinoa Salad. Fresh cilantro adds the finishing touch to both Day Three’s Lentil Chili, and Day Seven’s Fish Tacos.


While the original Oldways Cart recipes feature primarily winter produce, the same principles can be applied all throughout the year. Cherry tomatoes are just as at home in Greek salads and pasta dinners as they are on ricotta toast or in omelets. Fresh spinach can be dressed up in a salad with candied pecans and sliced apples, or simmered with chickpeas, mangos, and curry powder, and served over brown rice.

Food is a gift. Let’s stop letting parsley wilt in the crisper, and start giving our ingredients the respect they deserve, by showcasing them in delicious and nutritious recipes.

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