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Ad Council - Save The Food

I wouldn’t claim to be an environmental whiz kid, but I do the best I can.

I truly believe that even the smallest effort can make a huge difference. I read the numbers on the bottom of my plastic containers to make sure they can be recycled. I use empty bottles of wine to help water my plants — that’s really a win-win because I no longer have to remember to water them! But, I fall short in a few areas. I rarely finish a plate of food and have been guilty of tossing everything in my fridge in search of the one item that’s causing a funk.

Then I learned about food waste. And it’s no joke.

Food is the single largest contributor to landfills, and 40% of food in the U.S. is never eaten. That's a whole lot! But food waste isn't just about what winds up in our trash cans. Producing all of that wasted food uses over 20% of the U.S. supply of freshwater — that's more water than is used by California, Texas, and Ohio combined — and creates as much greenhouse gas emissions as 33 million passenger cars.


Trash on trash on trash. And it doesn't all have to be! Image via Petrr/Flickr.

And food is a tricky issue in general. At the same time all of this food is being wasted, there are so many places, in the U.S. and abroad, where families simply do not have access to the nutritious foods that are out there.

Given all this, it seemed worth taking a look at ways to reduce food waste — or, at the very least, our individual food waste. These tips aren't a cure-all, but doing just a little bit can help to make these very big issues just a bit smaller. Here are a few of my favorites.

First things first: In an ideal world, our food wouldn't go bad.

Sometimes we can’t avoid it. We put a pear at the bottom of a bowl, and by the time we get to it, it’s becoming pear cider. But that’s what refrigerators are for! Did you know that those drawers at the bottom serve a specific purpose? I didn’t. Turns out, it's called a crisper for a reason. Want to become an expert at storing your fruits and veggies? Here are a few tips:

  • Potatoes, onions, and tomatoes don't need to be kept in the fridge. It's actually better if they aren't.
  • Salad greens should be stored in bags filled with a little air and sealed tightly. As someone who tries to remove all air from ziplock bags, this was an interesting tip.
  • Not all fruits can be stored together: Avocados, bananas, and kiwis produce ethylene as they ripen, so they need to be separated from fruits like apples to prevent the latter from going bad.  

Those two drawers? They aren't just for top shelf overflow. Image via LaraLove/Wikimedia Commons.

Now, if you have a few food items that are already past their prime, there’s still time! These recipes are for you.

Full disclosure: I tried a few of these myself, but most of the delicious goodness you’re about to see is courtesy of the DIY mavens online.

Bruised fruit just ... isn’t cute. But it’s still delicious.

Bananas look downright unappealing when they’re brown and spotty on the outside, but did you know that’s actually when they’re at the best for a few recipes?

I had a very unattractive banana lying around and decided to put it to good use.

Not looking so good, banana. Image by Mae Cromwell/Upworthy.

1. Meet banana fritters.

I made these myself. And they were delicious. Image by Mae Cromwell/Upworthy.

2. And banana bread is another great way to get rid of your spotted bananas!

3. Do you have overripe peaches, strawberries, or really any fruit you find irresistible? Turn it into jam! It’s surprisingly easy.

These jars of home-canned peaches look SO good. Image via Rachel Tayse/Flickr.

4. Love breakfast foods? Your bruised fruit can play a role there, too. Those fruit-filled pancakes aren’t just for a fancy brunch. Smash your overripe fruit in a bowl, and make your own pancakes at home.

*Drooling.* Image via Matheus Swanson/Flickr.

5. And how about popsicles? Did you know you could make those with overripe fruit? Your bruised peaches never looked so good.

And then there’s stale bread — it still has its uses!

6. Confession: I’m not much of a bread eater. Too often, I’d buy a loaf of gluten-free bread, forget about it, and toss it. But now I know that dried out bread can be transformed and used for something I really do like: breading things! Fried catfish is going to be perfect from now on.

I'm absurdly proud of these bread crumbs! Image by Mae Cromwell/Upworthy.

7. And if you eat a lot of salads, spice them up with homemade croutons.

Croutons have never looked so good. Image via Tasha/Flickr.

A lot of us have fallen victim to wasting parts of a whole rotisserie chicken. But not anymore.

After that first meal, there’s often so much chicken left that next steps can be confusing. Do you eat the same meal for a few days or toss the leftovers? Do neither! There are tons of ways to reuse leftover chicken.

8. Tacos

A Taco Tuesday staple. Image via Larry Hoffman/Flickr.

9. Chicken salad

Image via Lara604/Flickr.

10. BBQ it! Yes, you can take the same chicken, slather some BBQ sauce all over it, and voilà! A new meal. You can eat it as-is or shred it and make a sandwich. The world is yours.

Mouth-watering leftovers. Image via jeffreyw/Flickr.

11. As we head into winter, you can't go wrong with some comforting chicken soup.

Perfect for a chilly day. Or any day, really. Image via Carol VanHook/Flickr.

12. And as a new West Coast resident, I can vouch for chicken quesadillas. Shred or chop up your leftovers and make them part of this meal. You won’t regret it.

Image via Andy Melton/Flickr.

And — this is mind-blowing — you can revive some of that produce you wrote off as goners. Yes, you read that right.

13. Carrots?

14. Lettuce?  

15. Parsley?

As certain vegetables wilt and start to lose their texture, they can be revived with some good ol’ water. Seriously. This is like a magic trick that we can all pull off.

So, you get it: Food waste sucks, but there are (delicious) ways to contribute to the solution.

Try some of these tips at home, and post your own tips! You never know which one of your tips can save someone else a ton of time and money while helping us all to treat this planet a little bit better.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

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One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

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