As the holiday season quickly approaches, family and friends gather to celebrate yearly traditions and make new memories with one another. It’s no surprise that food is the focal point of many of these holiday traditions and memories. Unfortunately, during this time of the year, millions of pounds of food remain uneaten and end up in landfills. In fact, I Love A Clean San Diego, which is an environmental nonprofit in San Diego County, estimates Americans waste 25% more food during Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than the rest of the year. Food waste negatively impacts food security, the environment and climate change. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw out more than 400 pounds of food per person each year. From people throwing away uneaten turkey, green beans, mashed potatoes and other seasonal treats, food waste is a growing problem that we must tackle.

Food insecurity is a major problem across the country, especially given the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In New Jersey, nearly 14% of households are food insecure and struggle to find enough food weekly. This problem is exacerbated during the holiday season. In 2020, the Philadelphia Inquirer released an article estimating that 55% of New Jerseyans are not confident they will be able to afford necessary food for the holidays. As some families plan how much food they will eat during the holidays some children and families aren’t sure when they will be able to eat again. Annually, food banks rescue around 3.6 billion pounds of food which is distributed to those in need. However, this represents only a small percentage of food that could have been donated but ended up in the trash.

Wasting food is a waste of money and harms the environment! Wasted food is a waste of the water, land, labor and energy which went into growing, producing, transporting, storing and disposing discarded food. For households, on average, they could save an estimated $370 per person annually. For a family of 4, this could produce an additional $1,500 in funds annually! For the environment, rotting food in landfills produce greenhouse gases. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has determined that food is the single largest category of material placed in municipal landfills where it emits methane. Landfills accounted for 14.1% of methane emissions in 2017 and represent the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the country.

Hudson County Organizations Tackling the Food Waste Problem

Hudson County is paving the way for all residents to have food on the table during this holiday season. Many local organizations and restaurants are running programs or partnering with existing establishments to donate food or meals to those in need. For example, Hudson Table, well-known for offering luxurious cooking classes, is giving back to the Hudson County Hunger Project by providing additional resources and funds to ensure the program exists and delivers meals to those in need. Mademeals is another local organization providing premade meals to busy individuals in the Jersey City community is also delivering solutions for the food waste problem is Hudson County. This organization tackles food waste by taking orders in advance to ensure they are only sourcing ingredients needed for the meals each week. Any of their leftover food is either composted or donated to local food organizations. Check out the full list of organizations that are allocating leftover food to those in need or reducing food waste in Hudson County. It’s never too late to get involved and support these local businesses and organizations!

Another great way to tackle the problem of food waste during the holiday time is to get involved in municipal food waste collection programs. In 2015, Hoboken enacted one of New Jersey’s first residential composting programs. Hoboken’s Residential Compost Drop Off Program allows residents to drop-off their compost for free or have it picked up for a monthly fee. Hoboken’s program offers 4 sites with an expansion to 12 sites planned this year. Accepted items include all food items such as fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, bones, grains, eggs & eggshells, coffee grounds, coffee filters, food-soiled paper, uncoated paper plates, tea bags and paper towels. These materials are collected and distributed to farms where they are recycled into compost, which is used to fertilize the soil.

Launched in 2018, Jersey City’s Residential Compost Drop-Off Program provides residents with the option of dropping off their food waste daily at multiple locations across the City. The City also offers the Jersey City Backyard Composting Program which provides residents with discounted materials and free workshops. To date, the City has collected over 247,926 pounds of food scraps which has been transformed into compost.

In August 2021, North Bergen celebrated their new public compost drop-off site in partnership with Community Compost Company (CCC) and Hudson County at Braddock Park. Residents can collect food scraps in a container or bag and dispose of them in the community compost bin. According to NJ Earth Talks, 22% of solid waste in New Jersey consists of food waste, some of which was edible at the time of disposal. The bin is under a pilot program with Community Compost Company until January, when the Hudson County Board of Commissioners will decide whether to continue the partnership. This program, among many others, is an ideal way for residents to reduce food waste this holiday season.

Without a doubt, Hudson County has proven their commitment to providing common sense solutions to ending food waste. Earlier this year, the Secaucus Environmental Department in partnership with Community Compost Company (CCC) launched a new pilot residential food compost drop-off program to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills and help the environment. To be part of this program, Secaucus residents must register for free through a registration quiz. At the end of the quiz, residents will receive a combination to open a compost shed. The pilot program includes 5 drop-off sites across Secaucus that are open Saturday through Tuesday, where registered residents can deposit their food scraps. Residents are asked to collect food scraps and paper products in an airtight container or paper bag. All food and some paper products including all food and coffee filters, food-soiled paper, uncoated paper plates, tea bags and paper towels can be put in drop-off bins. Non-food products such as plastic, metal, glass, styrofoam, liquids, coated paper, chemicals, frozen food boxes, produce stickers, grease, staples in tea bags cannot be added to the compost drop-off bins. In only a couple months, nearly 200 Secaucus residents have participated in the pilot program, and it continues to grow!

With so many options to tackle food waste within the Hudson County community, challenge you and your family this holiday season to take a small step towards helping the environment!

At Home Solutions to Food Waste

If you’re hosting the holidays at your house this year you can still tackle food waste from the comfort of your own home! For residents with a backyard, a backyard composting bin is an easy way to reduce food waste while producing fertilizer for your lawn and garden. An organic material, compost can be added to soil to support plant growth. Certain foods and yard waste can be placed into the compost bin which saves them from being sent to a landfill in a plastic garbage bag.

What can you place in your compost bin? Organic materials including coffee grinds, fruits and vegetables; eggshells; grass clippings; leaves; nut shells; shredded newspapers and fireplace ashes. Compost bins should remain free of certain materials including meat or fish bones, yard clipping which have been treated with chemicals and pet waste.

These options are great for uneaten leftovers and the abundance of food waste that builds up during holiday celebrations.

Holidays Tips to Reducing Food Waste

Residents across New Jersey have the power to reduce food waste, especially during this time of the year. This holiday season challenge family and friends to implement simple changes to their holiday traditions to support a healthy environment and make new memories that help alleviate food waste.

  • Cook holiday meals with a plan: A great way to reduce food waste is to only buy what you need and what you and your guests will eat. Save the Food, a collaborative campaign with the Natural Resources Defense Council, created a tool you can access here to plan for how much food you will need for the number of guests joining your holiday celebrations.
  • Shop at your local farmers markets. News 12 released a list in August 2021 including farmers markets you can find across New Jersey.
  • This year challenge yourself to select produce that may not be the best looking. It’s estimated that 40% of “imperfect” produce is turned away by grocery stores each year for not meeting cosmetic standards.
  • This holiday season volunteer your time at a local food bank or pantry. You can also donate unused or excess food items to your local food pantries or donation sites to help others this holiday season.
  • Store food in the right places to prevent items from spoiling too quickly. It’s also helpful to organize your fridge, pantry or freezer to prevent items from getting lost and spoiling, before heading to the grocery store.
  • Save your leftovers and provide reusable containers for guests to take home remaining food from holiday celebrations. You can also plan creative recipe ideas to reuse leftovers in different meals. These options will save you time and money!
  • Save certain foods and place them in a personal or community compost bin to reduce food waste in landfills and help turn waste into mulch or fertilizer for your garden or community.

Reducing food waste is easier than ever. This holiday season start at home or locally and help solve the problem!

   

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