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Tara Dunker

Tara Dunker

Interested in an eating pattern that benefits the planet?

Monday marked the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and gave us all the opportunity to reflect on how our choices impact our environment.

While food choices may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about being kind to mother Earth, they have an undeniable impact. Here are a few things to consider when deciding how your own eating pattern stacks up.

Buy fresh, buy local

Did you know that less than one percent of the U.S. population claims farming as an occupation?

On average, only 10 cents of each dollar spent on food returns to the farmer. The other 90 cents goes to corporations for things like packaging, marketing, and transportation (not super Earth friendly). Farmers who sell direct to consumers receive 80 cents of each food dollar and fewer natural resources are used on packaging and transportation.

Not only is buying locally a win for farmers, but you benefit by getting to know your fellow Nebraskans and eating food that is healthier and fresher. Win, win!

Consume and waste less

According to a Rethink Food Waste report, it is estimated that the Earth’s population will top 9 billion by the year 2050. This growing population will undeniably stress our food systems, natural resources, and ecosystems.

Now consider that worldwide we waste 40 percent of our food supply. To put this into perspective, the numbers equate to each American tossing out roughly 400 pounds of uneaten food every year. That’s a lot of unnecessary waste, especially when you think about the water and other natural resources used to produce and transport the tossed food.

So how can you have a positive influence?

Take stock of what you already have in your kitchen before heading to the grocery store, and try including realistic amounts for foods when you make your list. Example: Salad greens, enough for three lunches.

Look up how to properly store different kinds of fresh foods. Hint: some prefer room temperature environments, some prefer refrigerator crisper bins. And consider buying canned and frozen options if you know you end up tossing the fresh varieties often.

Be curious about your food

If you Google this topic, you’ll undoubtedly come across articles telling you to eat only organic and avoid all conventionally grown or raised foods.

While it’s true that some methods of food production put greater stresses on our environment and natural resources than others, it’s important to remember that organic methods are not inherently more environmentally ethical than conventional.

Our food supply and our environment are complex systems, with pros and cons around every corner. Do your own research on the things that matter to you, and make food choices based on best-known facts, not fear.

Earth will thank you.

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If you have any further questions, please contact Tara Dunker at 402-223-1384, tara.dunker@unl.edu, or visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu.

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