Imagine a smorgasbord of your favorite foods all just sitting there, waiting for you to eat as much as you want.

Now imagine taking one third of it and throwing it in the trash.

That is, one out of three apples goes in the trash or one pound of spaghetti for every three pounds of spaghetti on the smorgasbord goes in the trash.

Staggering to think about, isn’t it? And yet that’s exactly what happens every day of the year all year ’round.

According to the United Nations, we could feed the entire world with the food that is produced now, except for the fact that more than a third of it gets wasted.

And hungry people are not the only problems resulting from food waste. Valuable water is wasted in producing a third more food than is consumed. Excessive amounts of fertilizer are needed to grow that wasted food.

More pesticides are used, and fuel usage goes up because of the extra fuel used in bringing the food to market. The environmental effects are staggering.

Cutting food waste can go a long ways toward feeding the world’s hungry and cleaning up the environment. Our mothers were right when they told us to finish our plates because there were hungry children in China.

But the key is to start with an appropriate size plate and not take more food than we can eat. After all, food that goes to the waist is really no different than food that goes to waste. Neither turns out to be helpful for human nutrition.

But even before the food comes to our plate, we can start by buying in quantities no larger than what we will actually eat.

We should also start to ignore expiration dates. Much of the food that gets thrown out is because of an expired date, and yet the food is not always bad and very seldom is it spoiled.

However, if that’s a concern, most foods can be frozen and then kept for much longer periods of time.

Sometimes when we think a food might be spoiling, we can turn it into a delicious alternative by freezing it. As an example, extra ripe bananas, when frozen, make a deliciously sweet nondairy dessert.

Donating food is another way to deal with excess food that won’t be eaten. By donating it to a food bank or a church soup kitchen, we’re able to avoid food waste and instead help to feed the hungry.

Look for ways to cut food waste. It’s healthy for us and it’s healthy for the planet.

Jim Smith is a local freelance writer focused on the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.