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New education campaign aims to reduce food waste in Washington

Seattle chef Joel Gamoran advocates cooking using scraps found in the refrigerator.
Amanda Johnson/Courtesy Washington Department of Ecology
Seattle chef Joel Gamoran advocates cooking using scraps found in the refrigerator.

Washington environmental officials today launched a new educational campaign aimed at reducing the amount of food people waste.

The Department of Ecology says the state throws away more than two billion pounds of food each year, half of it edible. Jade Monroe, the agency’s food center lead, says the goal of the Use Food Well plan is to reduce both of those numbers by half over the next six years. She says it’s a powerful message at a time when people are feeling the effects of high food prices.

“Our campaign has found that the average household can save about $1,500 a year if they work to prevent the food waste that they might just throw in the trash,” she said. “When we do reduce food waste, we also have a major environmental, social and economic impact.”

Monroe says an educational campaign like this won’t be successful if it makes people feel guilty about the food they throw away, so her agency has adopted a light-hearted approach by working with Seattle chef Joel Gamoran. He’s the CEO and founder of Homemade, a team of chefs that produces online cooking classes, and host of a cable TV program on A&E called “Scraps.”

“You can’t start by talking about anything other than yummy food,” Gamoran said.

He teaches home cooks how to make the most of their leftover ingredients rather than just tossing them in the trash.

“Chefs use everything. Home cooks throw away everything. So I thought there had to be someone that could speak to the home cook on behalf of this muscle that chefs already have, which is use everything because you’re going to save a ton of money, it’s going to have an incredible impact on the environment and there’s so much flavor,” he said.

For example, Gamoran encourages people to use parts of vegetables they usually toss, such as broccoli stems and carrot tops, for things like soup stocks and stir fry dishes.

Not all waste food is edible. So if you’re repulsed by the idea of turning parsley into pesto, Monroe says there are other options such as composting, which keeps food remnants from being tossed in the landfill.

Monroe says the Use Food Well campaign will be featured in Safeway and Albertson’s stores around the state. It coincides with National and Washington Food Waste Prevention Week.

“This is not a week-long thing,” Gamoran said. “Many of our parents and grandparents, they had this muscle. They didn’t throw away food back before the Depression. We need to bring that back because it’s just money going down the tubes.”

One of the Northwest's most seasoned reporters is returning to his SPR roots. Doug Nadvornick will be heard frequently on KPBX and KSFC reporting on local news.