Pro Tips from the Field

A guest blog post from one of our student research assistants

Hi! My name is Linda Lu and I am currently a fourth year undergraduate student studying Immunology and Nutritional Sciences at University of Toronto. Coming from a city where many society members depended on resources from foodbanks, I was able to gauge the importance of food sustainability and waste reduction at a very young age. I have been involved with food consciousness and accessibility since my senior years in high school where I helped jumpstart a school-wide breakfast club and community garden specifically designed for inner-city students of British Columbia. 

I love traveling and meeting people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Just this past summer, I traveled to Pujili, Ecuador to build homes for families affected by local earthquakes. I was intrigued at how our cultural practices were so different – mainly, how wasteful we are in terms of food back at home. After returning, I joined the Food Systems Lab through a community-engagement research course, courtesy of New College at University of Toronto, to be able to speak out about food-waste in a more active way. What intrigued me about the lab was the opportunity to translate my education into a real-world setting. Similarly, being able to work with key stakeholders and community members of various backgrounds regarding food-waste topics is another aspect that drew me into the program.

My schooling in nutritional sciences has provided me with the knowledge of food safety, nutritional literacy, food chemistry, food processing techniques and many aspects of basic human nutrition. As a research assistant, my role is to produce up-to-date educational material such as newsletters, and workshop outlines to facilitate our current research task. I work to curate tips, present guidelines and gather recipes to produce fun, yet informative, newsletters for our readers to enjoy. In addition, I have also been involved with behind-the-scenes tasks such as mailing letters, surveys, and setting up for workshops. 

Besides my love for food and travel, I also love making green juices. If you are also a juice fanatic like me, you might be generating a ton of veggie pulp and worrying about how wasteful this is! My favorite thing to do with the veggie pulp is to make them into vegetarian meatballs. Sauté some garlic, shredded zucchini, red pepper and slowly mix in your veggie pulp. Add parsley and Italian seasoning for flavoring, or even crack in an egg for extra texture. Form the mixture into balls and bake! Get ready to enjoy your veggie meatballs, with your freshly pressed green juice on the side of course. 

Here are my top 3 tips to reducing food-waste:

  1. Plan your meals: As a university student, this is especially a time-saver! I love meal planning particularly because it allows me to pack my own ready-to-go meals that I can quickly grab and head out the door. After asking around, I found that a large majority of my friend’s food-waste comes from not properly planning out what they are going to eat, leading to spoiled or rotten food. Meal planning is a great way to ensure that you only purchase what you plan to eat.
  2. Proper storage: Learning about proper food storage is key as it prevents excess bacterial growth and undesirable chemical reactions from happening to your food. Most common foods that are stored incorrectly include bananas, pineapples, cucumbers, and eggplant. These foods can actually suffer from chilling injury, making them appear more undesirable. To keep them looking top quality, keep them out of the fridge in a cool and dry environment instead.
  3. Freeze what you cannot finish: The freezer has always been my best friend when I accidentally purchase excess food. You can freeze various things ranging from bread, bananas, fruits, and meats. This prolongs the life of your food by slowing bacterial or fungal growth and you might even find alternative ways to finish your food such as making smoothies with frozen fruits! 

In addition, I would like to share with you the link to an online recipe book where you can access multiple ways to reduce your food-waste around home: http://www.gibbs-lab.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Cookbook050516.pdf

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