‘Lets Talk Trash’ initiative encourages healthy eating, reducing food waste

Ty Mullen
Americans waste about $370 worth of food per person each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. (Ty Mullen)

BYU dietitian nutritionist Pauline Williams and the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion’s project Choose My Plate created an initiative called “Let’s Talk Trash” to help people save money and combat food waste. The majority of the initiative’s resources were created for students by BYU dietetic interns under Williams’ supervision.

Choose My Plate reported over 90 billion pounds of food is wasted each year — 123 times the weight of the Empire State Building. People waste about $370 worth of food per person each year.

“Let’s Talk Trash” provides ways to be more mindful with use of food and trash. These include planning and saving, being food safe, checking for quality, setting storage reminders, being organized, repurposing, donating, and recycling and composting.

The Choose My Plate project, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, provides information about healthy living and eating practices. Choose My Plate provides daily nutrition tips, portion size guidelines and other resources.

Registered dietitian nutritionist Tara Orr acknowledged the lack of education available on food waste.

“It’s a learning curve. We don’t learn everything immediately. You’re going to prepare meals, and you’re going to have food waste, but learning each time from that is what’s important,” Orr said.

Becoming more aware of what gets thrown away will not only help reduce landfill contribution, Orr said, but will help students save money.

Choose My Plate and Williams created several tips to help students save money and conserve landfill space.

Williams encouraged students to plan out their meals for the week and use food already in the pantry. She said looking in the pantry before making a list of meals for the week will help students buy food items they will actually use.

According to Williams, another way students can save money and food is by repurposing leftovers.

“Get creative with the extras. There are a lot more options than you think,” Williams said.

Choose My Plate encourages students to reuse their leftovers in recipes, citing broccoli stems in a salad or overripe fruit in a smoothie as examples.

Williams also advised students to freeze their extra food.

“Sometimes you make a bit too much soup and would rather not eat it for every meal until it’s gone. Instead of tossing it, freeze it and thaw it for a delicious meal later,” Orr said.

Many college students don’t have enough time to cook and end up settling for less nutritious alternatives instead, Orr said. Doing so can impair academic performance and cause health problems.

BYU dietetics student Hannah Morgan said students should cook more nutritious meals.

“A well-balanced diet is important to the health of anyone, including students. Bad eating habits can lead to a number of nutrient deficiencies. These include both short-term and long-term health defects,” said Morgan.

In addition, Orr suggested students put more effort into recycling and composting scraps. Potato peels, egg shells and banana peels along with other organic materials can be composted into soil, Orr said.

Provo City’s recycling website provides information and resources to utilize recycling and composting services. Students who do not have access to the curbside recycle program can take their items to drop-off recycling sites in Provo.

Williams and her team of dietetic interns also created a cookbook called “How to Eat Healthy on a Budget” for university students who want to save money and stay healthy.

Additionally, the cookbook includes corresponding videos that show how to make some of the dishes.

Amanda Meir, a dietetics intern and current graduate student, worked on the videos under Williams’ supervision.

“I didn’t know these resources existed until I did this internship during my undergrad. BYU has tons of resources, and the financial fitness center can help you,” Meir said.

Meir said her team is continuing to research dietetics in hopes of helping more students see that it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget.

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