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WEEPING WATER – There’s growing concern on what’s now taking up more and more space in landfills.

It’s the wasteful disposal of food.

“An alarming 40 percent of the food we grow gets thrown away and most of it is wasted at home and in restaurants,” said Meagan Deichart, President of Keep Nebraska Beautiful.

Linda Behrns, president of Keep Cass County Beautiful, added, “This has come to the forefront as far as waste that we are seeing.”

Reducing food waste was a topic at last week’s annual KCCB Youth Environmental Fair for county fifth graders of which 115 of them took part.

Local educators, master gardeners, energy consultants, foresters, conservation technicians and other volunteers set up 13 educational booths and interacted with the students, Behrns said.

“The purpose of the fair was to help students learn how to take better care of the environment and to make real-world connections with their surroundings,” Behrns said.

Topics included facts about groundwater with a demonstration using a groundwater flow model, Nebraska mammals and the ecological services rotting logs provide.

Two booths added this year focused on the prevention of food waste and reducing organics in the landfill by composting.

The “Life of an Apple” booth demonstrated where food comes from and what we can do to avoid wasting food.

For example, according to Behrns, when a bruise on an apple is found there’s a tendency to throw all of it or a good portion away. However, people can cut and remove the bruise and make applesauce, juice or cider from the remainder, she said.

Another station, ‘Do the Rot Thing…Compost,’ may have been a play on words, but the meaning was serious. It explained the benefits of composting unused food as an efficient method to enrich lawn or garden soil instead of disposing food waste in landfills where it can create methane gas, a dangerous greenhouse gas, Behrns said.

Students were also taught on preserving leftovers by also placing them in a certain area of the refrigerator and up front, instead of in the back where it can get stuck behind newer food and end up forgotten and spoiled.

The students were even given tags with the wording `Use This First’ to be put on the leftovers at home, Behrns said.

She praised Deichart, the new president of Keep Nebraska Beautiful, for bringing these new booths to the fair.

“She wanted to take a new approach with an emphasis on decreasing food in the landfills,” Behrns said.

Other presentations included home safety, a recycle-sort game, and flowers that benefit the environment, she said.

“Students were very engaged as they actively learned about endangered Nebraska species, the littered landscape, bees and pollination in food production, energy efficiency and safe household hazardous waste disposal,” Behrns said.

Students attending the fair came from Elmwood-Murdock, Louisville, Weeping Water and Plattsmouth’s St. John the Baptist schools. The event was made possible by grant funding from the Litter Reduction and Recycling Grant Program of the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy (NDEE), the Cass County Fair Board, memberships and help from 29 volunteers, according to Behrns.

“It went really well and those who attended had a good time,” she said.

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