Since it’s almost Earth Day and sustainability is the word of the hour, I decided I wanted to do something to highlight one of the biggest issues with America’s food industry. If you’ve seen almost any environmental documentary on Netflix then you probably know what I’m talking about: food wastage.

In a report done in 2009 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it was estimated that approximately 32% of food produced in the world is wasted. This is a huge problem when you take into account the lifespan of the High Plains Aquifer which supplies fresh water to the majority of Midwestern farms. (If you recall from 6th grade geography, this area is also known as the breadbasket of America, known for producing most of America’s wheat, corn, and soy.) It is thought that by the year 2060, the High Plains Aquifer will be completely depleted. It honestly doesn’t seem like we can afford to be wasting food at our current rate.

So anyways, back to me. In the name of sustainability, I decided to live as close to a “freegan” as I could for a day. Freegans are regular, educated people that opt to scavenge for food rather than buy into consumerist cycles. They operate on an environmentally moral high ground, eating only the trash that grocery stores and restaurants have deemed substandard through essentially arbitrary assessments mandated by a store’s litigation adverse policies.

In order to get in on this found food movement without actually dumpster diving, I decided to “scavenge” for foods that are commonly thrown away by stores in all the dining halls and construct my own “found” meals at home. I wanted to prove that found meals can be just as nutritious and satisfying as purchased meals.  The only rules were that the majority of ingredients had to be commonly found in dumpsters.

I began the morning by picking up a banana, peanut butter, honey, and wheat bread from the dining hall. Conveniently, this simple meal is easy to find in a dumpster. Produce like bananas are often thrown away. Essentially any produce item that you see in a grocery store where you’ve wondered how the store could possibly sell the amount they have in stock before the item rots, is an item that is being continually thrown away. Another one of these items is bread. Freshly baked bread basically has a shelf life of one day before it’s tossed into the dumpster.

Scavenged Breakfast Recipe:

· Bread

· Peanut butter

· Banana

· Honey

Directions: Toast bread and smother with peanut butter. Add sliced bananas and drizzle with honey.

For lunch I decided to spice it up with a quinoa and veggie scramble and a side of warm pita and hummus. I was easily able to find uncooked veggies like onion, spinach, mushroom, tomatoes, and squash in the dining hall. All of these veggies would be typically thrown out by grocery stores. Also, it’s not uncommon for freegans to find sealed, refrigerated items like hummus in a dumpster haul. Basically anything perishable is fair game for dumpster diving.

Found Lunch Recipe:

· Cooked Quinoa

· Spinach

· Tomato

· Onion

· Mushroom

· Pita

· Hummus

· Balsamic vinegar

· Salt

· Herbs de Provence

· Olive oil

Directions: Sauté spinach, tomato, onion, and mushroom over medium-high heat in olive oil. Spice with herbs, salt and balsamic vinegar. When cooked, add in the cooked quinoa. Oil an additional pan and place pita in the pan to gently toast. Remove when lightly browned.

When dinner rolled around, I wanted to make sure I got my protein in for the day so I chose to make seared tofu in a bed of farro with a massaged kale salad. At this point, I was very used to thinking like a dumpster diver. Knowing that kale was a commonly thrown away vegetable, I decided to utilize that along with cooked wheat berries. Frequently, the foods that are unknown to most consumers, like farro and tofu, are tossed out more frequently because they aren’t purchased quickly enough

Found Dinner Recipe:

· Cooked farro

· Tofu

· Kale

· Tomato

· Red Onion

· Olive oil

· Herbs de Provence

· Balsamic vinegar

· Honey

Directions: Marinate tofu in a mixture of honey, salt, balsamic vinegar and Herbs de Provenence. Pan sear tofu on medium-high heat in a ¼ inch well of oil. While this is cooking, use the same marinade to massage the chopped kale. Add red onion and sliced cherry tomato to the kale salad. Warm farro and serve with tofu and salad.

We all know to recycle and turn off the lights when we leave the house, but it's also important to consider food wastage.  I'm not saying you have to dumpster dive for all your meals, or craft your meals to include only the foods with the highest potential for being thrown out, but perhaps just think about what you're eating and the journey food takes before it reaches the table this Earth Day.