Sunday, July 31, 2016

No Wasted Food!

"No Wasted Food! No Wasted Food!" This chant will forever be in my memory from my days spent at the Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center. I first visited as a sixth grade student, and my life was changed forever. We learned about the importance of taking care of our world and each other. Even the tiniest mosquito deserves our love and respect (this is still a difficult concept for me). Mealtimes even focused on sustainability - no paper napkins (we each had our own handkerchief), vegetarian options were made available, and we were expected to only put on our plate what we believed we were going to eat. Any food left on plates was scraped into a small bucket, and the goal was to have an amount small enough that would be below a line about an inch tall. Celebrations abounded when this goal was reached, which is no small feat when you gather 100+ students, teachers, and staff for a meal. 

I returned to the Glen as a staff member when I graduated from college. The call of the Pine Forest, the Yellow Springs, and the Raptor Center was strong. 

I handled a number of raptors and cared for them as well during my time at Glen Helen. Pictured here is a barred owl.
One of several natural springs in the Glen.
Working hand in hand with other staff members to bring young people to understand their place in our world was an incredible experience. I worked at the Center for a year in different roles. We were all expected to take turns in the kitchen and not surprisingly this was my favorite place to be.

From-scratch pancakes were always a hit with the kids! I'm pictured here on the left with a co-worker.
I took pride in helping to create food that children would find both tasty and nourishing for the long days spent on the trails.  The "No Wasted Food" chant lived on during these days, and celebrations varied from song and dance to the shaving of staff member heads. We taught the kids about the resources needed to create the food they eat: time, money, fuel, electricity, packaging, and animal life in some cases. It's important that we care for these resources as there are many who don't have enough food to survive and we mustn't create more waste during our production of food.  Even the small amount of food that we had to throw away was not completed wasted. A compost pile was located on site and the luscious soil was eventually worked into the on-site garden with the help of staff and students.

The United Nations Environmental Programme states that about one-third of all food produced in the world is "lost" during production or consumption. Think about that - one in three apples could have been given to those who suffer endlessly from hunger and malnutrition. One in three hamburgers from your favorite fast-food joint is tossed for one reason or another.  Our world has enough food for everyone...but we can't seem to get it to those who need it before it is considered waste.

I encourage you to think through your meals each week. Pick up only the fresh meat and produce that you believe will actually be consumed before it goes bad. Choose items with less packaging and those which traveled a shorter distance. At mealtimes, encourage your family members to only put on their plates that which they are really going to eat. Package up leftovers immediately after meals so that they are appetizing for lunches in the next couple of days. You will save time, money, and countless resources if you find ways to keep from tossing food. Consider composting the inedible parts of fresh fruits and vegetables and use the soil to create beautiful produce in your own garden!

Peppers from our garden!
Glen Helen will forever hold a special place in my heart. I look forward to the time when my own children will discover amazing things about themselves and their world when they visit for their first time in a few years!
We developed our own black and white photography (pre-digital age). I am still in contact with many of my friends I met during this time!