The Environmental Protection Agency's message on Martin Luther King Day: Eat more leftovers and start composting to save the planet.
"Reducing, donating and composting excess food is a triple win that protects the environment, cares for the global human family, and saves organizations and Americans money," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
McCarthy visited Miriam's Kitchen and Western Presbyterian Church in Washington Monday in honor of the civil rights leader's legacy of service. The kitchen works to end homelessness in Washington, while the church has long been a fixture of tolerance and community service in the Foggy Bottom community of the District.
McCarthy used the visit to announce a new EPA initiative to work with faith-based groups to reduce food waste. While there, she helped prepare a salad made from roasted Halloween pumpkins that escaped a trip to the garbage dump.
EPA will make a "toolkit" available under the new program to assist groups on how to "organize a kitchen to eat older food first and sample dishes that use up extra food so it stays out of the landfill."
Diverting food from landfills helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, thereby helping to reduce the effects of climate change, the EPA says.
"Food waste is the number one material sent to landfills and incinerators – more than plastic and metal combined," EPA said in a statement announcing Monday's event. "Decomposing food in landfills emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes climate change."
Most scientists blame manmade greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide for causing the Earth's climate to warm, resulting in more severe weather, droughts, famine and flooding.
The agency says the average family of four wastes as much as $1,600 of food annually. "Much of this discarded food is actually safe and wholesome food that could be used to feed people who do not have a regular source of food," it said.
The toolkit is part of a broader administration effort to reduce food waste 50 percent by 2030.
The U.S. Food Loss and Waste Goal was started in September by the EPA and the Agriculture Department to partner with charitable organizations, faith-based organizations, the private sector and local, state and tribal governments to reduce food loss "in order to improve overall food security and conserve our nation's natural resources."