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The summer harvest season is coming to an end, and sought-after items, such as tomatoes, green beans and corn, are slowly being replaced with popular fall fare, like apples, beets and carrots. So you may be stocking up to have the fresh tastes of summer around a little longer.

But wait! It’s going to take a little planning if you don’t want to find yourself with an excess of produce, staring at the bags of red, green and yellow on your counter or in your pantry, and wondering, “How am I going to use all of this without letting it go to waste?”

It’s a legitimate concern. Food waste is a major issue around the world.

Globally, we waste about 1.4 billion tons of food every year. In the United States, Americans annually discard nearly 40 million tons, or 80 million pounds of food — more than any other country. That equals about 30-40% of the entire country’s food supply.

And, if that doesn’t hit close to home, studies have shown that U.S. households waste about a third of the food they purchased every year. Imagine what that does to your grocery bill. Whether you’ve stored something incorrectly and it’s gone bad, overlooked ingredients or are tired of leftovers, we throw out a lot.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to decrease that amount:

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  • Learn new recipes — we’ve included two to help you out here.
  • Plan your meals accordingly by cutting down on how much you make.
  • Can your leftover vegetables or freeze them. For example, tomatoes can be frozen for up to six months for use in sauce (see our recipe for Chicken in a Tomato Basil Cream Sauce), salsa, stew, curry, etc.

As a mission-driven organization with a focus on growing and supporting the local food economy, The Wild Ramp also takes food waste seriously. One of the ways that we’re doing our part — and also supporting our farmers in the process — is through our Harvest Kitchen program, led by Chef Jedediah Thornburgh.

Through Harvest Kitchen, we purchase excess seasonal ingredients that might be in abundance from our market producers to create our own assortment of prepared food — think freezer meals and side dishes, soups, broths and packaged baked goods.

Since the Harvest Kitchen was started in 2019, we have used about 1,500 pounds of surplus product. It’s a win-win all around: less food is wasted, which benefits our farmers and our market, and our customers get convenient meal options and the chance to try new recipes.

So, the next time you visit The Wild Ramp, make sure you look for our Harvest Kitchen label along with your other favorite local items to see what we’ve been cooking up — and check out our social media channels!

Dawn Nolan is a former Gazette-Mail food writer and the current marketing and program coordinator for The Wild Ramp, in Huntington. For more information on The Wild Ramp, visit wildramp.org or follow TheWildRampHunt-ingtonWV on Facebook or @wildramp on Instagram. The Wild Ramp is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call The Wild Ramp at 304-523-7267. Email Dawn at programs@wildramp.org.

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