October 13, 2018

How Much Food Do You Waste?

Grade Level: 3-8

Activity Overview: In the U.S. 30-40 percent of food ends up wasted, instead of eaten. That is almost half the food in the U.S. Whether it’s expired food that doesn’t get eaten or leftovers that go to waste, there are many ways that food ends up being wasted. Growing and storing food takes money, and fuel, so when it’s wasted it not only wastes food, which is an important resource, but so are the fuel, energy, and money that it takes to produce the food. There are some easy things you can do to reduce the amount of food you waste.

TEKS: VI.C.4, SCI.K.1B, SCI.2.1B

Materials: Food waste receptacle, black trash bag, and scale.

Measure Your Food Waste: Activity Directions

Week 1

Place an empty black bag in your designated food waste receptacle and place it on your scale. Record the weight. Let everyone in your house know to dump any unused food in this trash can for the next week. You don’t have to include unusable parts of food, such as cores of fruit, as long as you have used all of the edible parts of the food, but for disposable purposes, you may include them.

Be sure to clean out your fridge at the end of the week, disposing of any wasted leftovers and spoiled groceries into the designated food waste receptacle. It’s important to include the waste you have from excess shopping as well as what is wasted from being on your plate, as both are considered food waste.

At the end of the week weigh the filled designated food waste receptacle. Calculate the weight of your household food waste by subtracting the weight of the empty container that you recorded at the beginning of the week. 

Week 2

Do the same activity for the second week with the goal of wasting less food. Here are some strategies to reduce waste:

  • Make less food. Pay attention to the recipes you make at home and the amount that it makes. If the recipes are larger than you and your family will eat in a week, half or quarter the recipe to make less. 
  • Buy less food. Consider buying in bulk instead of prepackaged materials. This allows you to reduce packaging waste, as well as not waste of food that you don’t need. Don’t automatically buy the biggest size container, pay attention to expiration dates and how much you will use in that time.
  • Plant a Garden. Plant a garden at your house or outside with foods that grow well in your climate and that you eat frequently. You can harvest them when they are ready, or when you need them. You can preserve the extra harvest yield through canning or freezing. Or you can donate it to people who need it or share with neighbors. Be intentional about how much you plant, based on how much you consume.
  • Make a Plan. Plan out your meals for the next week or two, reusing the same ingredients as much as you can. This will help you make use of all the perishable food that you buy.

At the end of the week, weigh the food designated food receptacle again. Remember to subtract the weight of the empty trash can.

Compare the weights for the two weeks. Did you create less food waste during the second week? What did you do to reduce your food waste and how can you continue those strategies?