Food Waste Lessons at Widji's Outdoor Learning Program

Did you know that throwing away one egg actually wastes approximately 55 gallons of water? That's water that the chicken who lays the egg drinks and that's water that goes to grow the food that the chicken needs in order to lay an egg. And that's just one resource, water, that gets used to produce our food. Think about other resources....the land that the chickens and other animals or vegetables that we eat need. That is a huge amount of space. Then there is petroleum. Farming often requires various types of machinery which use petroleum products to run. Further, after harvesting grains and vegetables or raising animals, the whole system requires vehicles, more petroleum, lights and heat in factories for processing, butchering, packaging and distribution. Who is involved in all of this? Many, many people! Beginning with farmers, on to truckers, other drivers, factory workers and of course, cooks; all of these folks spend crazy amounts of time involved in getting our food to us! Additionally, cooks work in heated or cooled kitchens which use even more energy and electricity for refrigerators, freezers, ovens and mixers to prepare all the food we eat.

It can be interesting to think about all the resources that go into your meal....water, land, people, time, energy, electricity, petroleum, money - it isn't just the ingredients in your meal. Consequently, if you throw out food after trying just one bite, you're not really just throwing away the food - you are throwing away all those resources, too.

At Widjiwagan's Outdoor Learning Program, we begin each week by discussing this idea with our school groups and then ask them to challenge themselves to have low amounts of food waste for the week. We brainstorm strategies for doing this - take small portions and then go back for second helpings, try to finish the food that you serve yourself, etc. Then, for each meal we eat, we weigh our collective amount of food waste and record it on a chart. By the week's end, we hope to have a downward trend showing on our food waste chart. Often we have success and many times we have meals where our entire group has zero food waste. It is a great lesson for all of us to practice Widji's mission of respect for others and also for environment. We have even had classes go home and begin food waste programs at their schools. -Karen Pick, Outdoor Learning Program Director