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Utah woman starts nonprofit to prevent food waste

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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — It's estimated Americans will throw out more than 200 million pounds of perfectly good turkey meat this year, most of it after Thanksgiving.

Statistics like that prompted a Utah business executive to leave her career a few years ago and start a new one: rescuing food. Dana Williamson founded the nonprofit Waste Less Solutions, which tries to be the connection between restaurants and other entities with extra food, and community organizations that need it.

"My background is supply chain," Williamson, who, during a long career with American Express, once dealt with the supply chain of the company's traveler's checks said. "And so fixing systems and processes, that intrigued me."

Recently she took a crate of juice and other food from Vive Juicery to an addiction recovery program. Leftover meals from a wedding catered by LUX Catering went to the Rescue Mission, which serves the homeless.

Waste Less Solutions also finds new homes for backyard produce and, to make sure rescued food itself, doesn't get thrown out, prepares meals for families in need.

Recently, under the direction of catering chef Adam Kreisel, volunteers turned donated vegetables and steak trimmed from restaurant meals into steak teriyaki for 60 low-income families.

"This is what is called chain on a filet mignon," Kreisel said, holding up a piece of meat. "That's a lovely piece of filet mignon that somebody would have otherwise chucked in the trash. I just don't throw away food because there's always a way to use it."

"As long as we're doing something that's good. As long as this isn't going in the trash, I'm a happy man," he said.

Chef Adam Kreisel tells KSL he doesn't throw away food because there's always a way to use it. (Photo: Peter Rosen, KSL-TV)

She says every year Utahns waste about 600,000 tons of food, the equivalent of two Empire State Buildings. At home, she says, we waste 35-40 percent of the food we have.

That's a waste of resources - wasting a pound of bananas, is like letting a 32-minute shower's worth of water go down the drain — and it's bad for the environment, she says. Based on data from a 2018 study, throwing out a pound of cheese is roughly equivalent to needlessly letting an 18-mile drive's worth of carbon dioxide go up in the air. Food rotting in landfills also produces methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas.

Williamson says it's an issue that, for everyone, hits home. In her kitchen, she says she's tried to learn how to keep items fresh and to use her freezer to preserve food.

"This is a way for all of us to make a difference. Every time we eat," she said.

"We all can't put solar panels on our house, buy electric cars. But we all eat. So every time we eat is an opportunity to make a big difference."

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