For Thanksgiving This Year, Make Less, Waste Less and Give More

This year’s smaller gatherings due to the pandemic provide another opportunity to re-set holiday traditions for the better, writes Priya Krishna for the New York Times She explains that sustainability is a part of Native American culture and as well as the heritage of many ethnic Americans.  Yet, the way we usually prepare Thanksgiving’s big meal of turkey, cranberries, and yams leads to mass production of certain foods, which puts undue stress on food systemsAt the same time, CBS News reported many more Americans are food insecure than in the recent past.  Long lines have been forming at food banks for months due to the economic crisis.  Per CBS, “[s]ince the pandemic started, as many as seven million people have enrolled in the federal government’s food stamp program (now called SNAP)” and “Americans need at least a 15% increase in those benefits to survive…”

Why This Matters:  Thanksgiving is “traditionally” excessive — according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 200 million pounds of turkey alone are tossed out each year.  This year, with so many Americans going hungry, that kind of waste is harder to stomach.  So make your shopping list carefully, and if you buy extra food, consider donating it rather than making a big meal that will go uneaten.

Food Insecurity On the Rise

According to Diane Schanzenbach, the director for the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, at the outset of the pandemic, the number of Americans who didn’t have enough to eat surged, from around 8 million to nearly 30 million, which exposed major gaps in the social safety net in America, especially for Black and Latino families.  But Congress could fix these gaps if they tried with more stimulus funding.  Schanzenbach wonders, “Do they not believe that so many people are hungry? Have they not gone out to see what is happening at these food banks and food pantries?”

Consider New Thanksgiving Traditions

Krishna writes in The Times that one new idea for Thanksgiving is to create a meal inspired by your own heritage.  Think of the foods that are actually representative of who you are,” says Nikki Sanchez, an Indigenous scholar and documentary filmmaker, “actually bringing your own identity into this holiday.” Sanchez has one other important reminder, “Gratitude and abundance are reciprocal things.  When we take from the land, she said, we should also give back — through growing, recycling, composting and replanting.”

What You Can Do:  Donate time, food, or money to FoodRescueUS, a wonderful organization and #FriendofthePlanet, with sites all over the country.  They are tackling food waste and food insecurity problems at the same time.

To Go Deeper: Read the whole NY Times story on minimizing Thanksgiving food waste here.

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