Can It

A Co-op chef shares a sweet applesauce recipe.

Among the serious challenges we face as a society today is food waste. Studies report that as much as 40 percent of America’s total food production ends up in landfill. Yet one of every six people goes to bed hungry at night. How do we reconcile those numbers?  What can I do as an individual consumer?

Let us take a step back for a moment. Refrigeration was one of the things that changed food distribution in this country (as well as long haul trucks). Prior to these amazing advances you ate what you grew (or killed) in your own back yard. In order to not starve in the dead of winter (the People called the March moon the ‘Hungry Moon’) you stashed it (in a root cellar) dried it, salted it or canned it. There was not anything left to waste.

Each innovation brought with it an associated prosperity. A new sense of plenty. And a bit more waste. Soon the sentiment was not ‘Wow, an apple’ but ‘excuse me, that apple has spots’. The transformation was gradual. The average person did not wake up one day and say I will only accept perfect produce. But it did happen.

So what can I as an individual (or head of a family) do?

  • Plan ahead. Our refrigerators can become a dead zone of impulse purchases and over buying. Keep your refrigerator clean and organized.
  • Make and use a list when you shop for groceries.
  • Use those ‘best by’ dates as guidelines; your yogurt does not magically spoil on day eight!
  • Use your freezer; that loaf of bread will last so much longer and it is easy to get to those slices.
  • Eat leftovers. That big pot of soup that took you all weekend to make sure was delicious. Stash some in the freezer and it will make an easy mid-week meal at a later date.
  • Keep it real, volunteer at the local Food Pantry.
  • Give Thanks.
  • Reward yourself—calculate what you saved in a month and you might be able to splurge on something.
  • Buy local whenever possible. It is good for the local (your!) economy. I have never known a cross country trip to enhance the quality of produce.
  • When all else fails find somewhere that you can compost that food waste!
  • Learn a new skill. That bag of apples you ‘forgot about?’ Learn how to make applesauce! Tasty and delicious (kids LOVE IT!!), you just extended the life of that apple and made a healthy snack!

What you will find here at the Hanover Co-op is a strong relationship with the organization Willing Hands. Started by a former Co-op employee, ‘Willing Hands’ directly confronts ‘food waste’ by collecting it and redistributing it in the community. Every day they collect and repurpose produce and other items to places like the Haven and food pantries throughout the Upper Valley.

Let me be clear. Willing Hands redistributes over 1,000 lbs. a day. Every day. They are one of the Co-op’s food access partners and the Co-op supports their efforts through the Pennies for Change program.

Not only does this divert perfectly edible products from area landfills but also help feed people, young and old, in need. ‘Ugly produce’ may not help the profit margin at the Co-op but really contributes to the Co-op principle by giving back to the community.

Shelly’s Applesauce

6-10 medium apples, any variety
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup pure cane sugar
½ cup water

Wash the apples.
Cut into 4-6 wedges.
Place is a good size pot.
Add water.
Place on stove medium high heat.
Bring to boil and immediately lower to a simmer.
Cook for 10-15 minutes (the apples will start to get puffy)
Add sugar and cinnamon, stir.
Remove from heat and let sit for a couple of minutes.
Run through food mill.

Add 1 cup of cranberries with the apples and you have cranberry-apple sauce!

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Jamie King

Jaime retired from the Co-op in 2022. A chef at the Co-op for 11 years, he finished his career in inventory control and recipe development for the Prepared Foods Department. An Omnivore, his favorite food is chocolate but he will eat most anything. He lives by the lake in Grantham with his lovely wife and their dog Maddie.

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