How often do you toss out oranges, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables that rotted before you could eat them?

Have you ever opened your cupboard and found moldy bread or long-forgotten potatoes covered with sprouts?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, you're not alone. Americans waste a tremendous amount of food. In fact, in Franklin County alone, nearly a million pounds of food waste are entering our landfill every day.

Although that food might have had the potential to feed the hungry in our community, it's not just about wasted food. It's also about wasted resources -- all the labor, land, water and energy used to grow, process and transport food.

SWACO is working to decrease the amount of food that ends up in the landfill.

Last fall, we launched the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, a group of more than 60 organizations working together to reduce food waste.

The group identified three areas of focus -- food-waste prevention, food rescue and food recycling -- and came up with 20 solutions outlined in the Central Ohio Food Waste Action Plan.

COFWI began by working on three solutions:

* Promote existing programs and services.

* Test and implementing food-waste-reduction programs in schools.

* Develop an education campaign to help consumers reduce their food waste.

COFWI participants plan to build on these solutions with additional projects focused on increasing food donation, engaging with food-service providers and promoting innovations around food waste.

Simultaneously, SWACO conducted a composting-feasibility study to determine if our community has the infrastructure to support a large-scale operation for composting food waste.

Over the next few months, we will release the results of the feasibility study and kick off the consumer-education campaign, implementing food-waste-reduction programs in schools and announcing new focus areas. Everyone can keep up with these initiatives by following us on Instagram and Twitter at @swacogreen and on Facebook at facebook.com/swaco.org.

In the meantime, you have plenty of ways to reduce the amount of food in your household that goes to waste, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

This food hierarchy offers several helpful tips:

* Shop with a list. Avoid impulse purchases.

* Buy only what you need. Use the "Guest-imator" tool to figure out how much food to purchase.

* Store food properly. Freezing leftovers and other food is a great way to avoid waste and make food last longer. Of note, did you know you can freeze leftover turkey for up to six months?

* Practice rescue measures. If you have a lot of holiday leftovers, for example, update your "Friendsgiving" meal by serving as host to a "Must Go" party. Invite friends and family to bring and share their leftovers and let everyone know that all the food must go!

* Feed your dogs. Before throwing out food, consider your four-legged friends. Sweet potatoes, turkey, green beans and other food might be OK for your pet, but check with your veterinarian if you have concerns about feeding your pet table scraps.

* Compost at home. It's an easy way to turn food scraps into nutrient-rich soil for house plants and outdoor gardens.

* Use the garbage disposal. It's a better option for a lot of unwanted food than throwing it out. In Columbus, food put down the disposal actually is turned into compost.

* Throw it in the trash. If there's no other option for your unwanted food, you can count on SWACO to safely dispose of your organic waste at the landfill.

Ty Marsh is executive director of SWACO. Questions about its operations may be directed to him at questions@swaco.org. His office provides this column to ThisWeek Community News.