DHEC Asks South Carolinians to be Thankful, Not Wasteful, this Thanksgiving
DHEC offers tips for limiting food waste, donating to food banks, and handling food safely.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No holiday is more associated with food and leftovers than Thanksgiving. In advance of the upcoming holiday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) encourages South Carolinians to help reduce the amount of food that gets discarded this holiday. Food waste is the number one item thrown away by Americans every year.
The Don’t Waste Food SC public education campaign, which is coordinated by DHEC, the S.C. Department of Commerce and many ambassadors around the state, is focused on directing food waste out of landfills and, ideally, into the hands of a food-insecure family.
“Donating extra, unneeded food to a local food pantry is by far the best choice you can make to help keep food items from being thrown away,” said Adah Gorton, DHEC Food Waste Prevention Specialist. “One in ten South Carolinians, including more than 140,000 children, face hunger. Anyone fortunate enough to have leftover food this Thanksgiving can visit our Don’t Waste Food SC webpage to find food donation programs in their community.”
Other ways to cut back on food and food-packaging waste include:
- Meal planning. Only buying the amount of ingredients you need for each dish helps reduce food waste.
- Do a head count. Knowing how many people to prepare food for helps reduce the amount of prepared but unneeded food.
- Reusable containers for leftovers. Send your guests home with leftovers in a reusable container. This helps eliminate single-use materials like plastic wrap and keeps large quantities of food from going unused and spoiling in your fridge.
- Composting. If you can’t donate or reuse your leftovers, another option is composting. Sending food waste to a composting facility or composting at home can improve soil health and structure, increase water retention, support native plants and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides. DHEC provides composting tips at scdhec.gov/recycling.
Additionally, DHEC reminds South Carolinians to handle food safely this holiday season to help prevent the risk of foodborne illness. Raw turkey can contain Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and other germs. Below are several important food-safety tips.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling turkey or other raw meats. Also wash cutting boards, utensils, dishes and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing raw turkey and before you prepare the next item.
- Don’t buy the bird too early. If you bought your turkey fresh, keep it in the refrigerator and cook it within one to two days. If you bought your turkey frozen, to thaw it safely in the refrigerator, allow for a thaw rate of 4-5 pounds per day. Learn more safe thawing recommendations here.
- Safely cook your turkey. It’s important to make sure a turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165° F before serving, and to make sure stuffing is fully cooked as well. Learn more here.
- Turkey frying. Never put a frozen turkey in the deep fryer. When working with large amounts of hot oil, select a cooking vessel large enough to completely submerge the turkey without it spilling over. Select a safe location outdoors for deep frying a turkey, and never leave the hot oil unattended. More tips are available here.
- Monitor your leftovers. After dinner, remember to follow the two-hour rule. For safety, do not leave turkey or other perishable foods sitting out at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate your leftovers at 40° F or colder as soon as possible to prevent food poisoning.
- Eating out. If eating out, look for the “A” rating from DHEC. The A rating indicates the restaurant met high standards for food safety. Also, scan the QR code on the food grade decal (most now have them) to learn the restaurant’s inspection history before you eat there.
Another important holiday reminder is to properly dispose of cooking oil. Pouring cooking fats, oils and greases down the drain can create major plumbing issues. The best way to dispose of cooking oils is to recycle them. A list of local oil recycling drop-off sites is available at scdhec.gov/recycleheresc.