Opinion | End food waste in our community

Hunger’s root cause in our communities and country, the organizations say, is the waste of food.

Our sister newspaper The (Everett) Daily Herald shared a gardening joke recently: You shouldn’t leave your car unlocked — not because someone might steal something, but because a gardener might abandon a zucchini in your backseat.

But the joke does point to a problem — one that also offers a solution to an even larger problem. Food waste being the first, and hunger the second.

When food waste gets attention, TV news cameras generally train on the safe and edible food thrown out by restaurants and grocery stores. But of the 133 billion pounds of food thrown out in the U.S. in 2010, two-thirds of it went from our own kitchens and into the garbage or compost bin.

Much of it is wasted food — fruit that is thrown out because it’s slightly overripe or bruised; food that got pushed to the back of the fridge where it spoiled; or food that was tossed because the “expires on,” “best by” or “use by” dates had passed (those dates aren’t intended as food safety guides, but are the manufacturers’ estimates of how long the food will look and taste the best).

Wasted food is a tragedy. Food that is thrown out represents the wasted resources, energy and effort that goes into producing food — food that could provide nutrition to those who need it.

Two national organizations, AmpleHarvest.org and GreenFaith, are encouraging faith and religious leaders around the country to call on their congregations and communities to reduce food waste and direct more of that food to end hunger by assisting food banks, pantries and related programs.

Hunger’s root cause in our communities and country, the organizations say, is the waste of food.

Here’s a solution: Of those billions of pounds of food wasted, about 11 billion of it is grown in home and community gardens — food that is greatly prized at food banks. Food bank representatives will tell you that locally grown food is some of the healthiest food available.

Kitsap’s food banks encourage gardeners to bring in their overabundance. For produce that is most perishable, such as lettuce, it helps if you time the donation near the food bank’s distribution days, which can be found on food bank websites or by calling. The produce doesn’t need special handling; box it up or bag it and bring it in (first, wash dirt from potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables). Gardeners can also “Plant a Row,” dedicating a portion of their harvests to food banks.

You can help with the harvest even if you don’t have a garden. Check with Kitsap Harvest and South Kitsap Helpline’s food bank for opportunities to glean from local fields and orchards to help stock food banks. And forget about skulking around the neighborhood, trying to foist zucchini off on the unsuspecting. Your local food bank will take it.

South Kitsap Helpline, 1012 Mitchell Ave., Port Orchard, 360-876-4089. www.skhelpline.org.Kitsap Harvest, 360-337-5204, www.facebook.com/KitsapHarvest, martha.lefebvre@kitsappublichealth.org.