MARYLHURST — Many of us born in the 1930s and ‘40s will remember times like these, times of what we now call “food insecurity.” My father, Theodore (his name in Greek means God’s gift, and he was that to me as I stood on his shoes and learned to dance) drove a “welfare truck” inTacoma and delivered to those in need: powdered milk, dried eggs, raisins, sugar (sometimes), flour, peanut butter, sometimes blackened citrus fruit (smudged). These were the “makings” for non-alcoholic egg nogs we called “milkshakes.” And there were ingredients for pancakes aplenty. When any food remained on his truck, he was permitted to take it home for his own family. So we had pancakes three times a day: breakfast with brown sugar, in rolls spread with peanut butter for our packed lunches, and dinner covered with anything available.

The causes of “food insecurity” were different then than they are now. Prior to World War II — when shipyard jobs emerged for Rosie the Riveter, and other jobs opened for women as well as men — many people were out of work.

They may have had enough vegetables to eat from their gardens and meat from butchered hogs and chickens, but they had no cash for health care, rent, and other food items. Droughts hit many farmlands and drove hungry homeless families to seek a better living in the West. At one time my aunt, uncle and 10 children took a train from the Midwest and moved in with our family of six kids in Parkland, Washington.We were skinny little kids and could sleep on pillow-covered chairs. We were accustomed to being happy by “making do” whereas their 10 kids wanted bacon and eggs for breakfast as they had enjoyed in Minnesota. My mother, Betty, taught us to make stilts out of two-by-fours and cans, sling shots, kites, whistles, paper dolls, and other toys and games — and served “milkshakes” for treats. Their family whined, day and night, and no available food or activity sufficed. My father took many long walks to preserve his sanity.

In some ways we are still riding around in that welfare truck. Food banks never have enough to care for the hungry people who need their help to survive. Last Christmas bazaar at Mary’s Woods, I made 200 floral-designed blank-inside cards to earn money for the Oregon Food Bank, and many citizens contribute small amounts like this. But the needs have become year-round, and have increased with the coronavirus pandemic. Schools and individuals had been providing weekend food, to be carried home in backpacks for the family meals. On any given night, more than 5,000 adults and children in the Portland metro area sleep in homeless shelters or outside. Thousands more sleep in cars or on a friend’s couch. This is replicated in many large cities.

We do well to provide short-term solutions for food insecurity by contributing to food banks, shelters, and weekend backpacks. Such assistance is critical, especially now.

But the real cause of food insecurity in this decade is different; it is wasted food, despite the abundance of food that is produced. Here is where our citizens who grew up in the ’30s and ’40s can make a difference. We have numbers on our side. So what does food waste look like? And how can our AARP population do something about it?

About half of food produced is not eaten, yet about 1 in 8 Americans struggle to put food on the table.

Here are some ways we waste food:

• We want the perfect apple. Farmers cannot sell fruit and other products that do not look perfect.

• Grocers overstock, so the shelves look bountiful to attract buyers; but wasted produce goes to landfills.

• The cost to farmers and other food producers for growing, producing, and transporting is high. Overproducing is expensive for them if products are not sold.

• We toss limp lettuce leaves, beet greens, and other vegetables; we throw away chicken skins and egg yolks and broccoli stalks; we forget things that are in our refrigerators.

• Waste in landfills produces methane, over 80 times as disastrous to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

• We are willing to pay more for a label that costs more; if you worked in a cannery, as some of us have, you are aware that we simply stopped the bean cans from running, and changed the label machine. Same beans.

• Though food date labels are not required by the U.S. government, manufacturers put them on their products; we believe and toss, even though the product is still good.

We AARP folks can do a lot about food waste. We have enough life experience from the past and enough imagination for the future to come up with a number of options, for ourselves and our loved ones, to resolve to some extent the food waste issue that accounts for much of the problem of food insecurity.

Here are some ideas:

• Even if we reduced food waste by only 15% we would save enough food for about 25 million Americans for a year.

• We can reduce the environmental impact of food waste by encouraging the process of turning food scraps into renewable energy.

• We can save water. About 24% of our water supply goes to agriculture; over-producing wastes water. (It is OK for grocery store shelves not to be overstocked.)

• We can buy only what we need and not keep the refrigerator ready for an Easter buffet; we no longer have to buy in bulk for our families.

• We can store correctly. Foods with or near ethylene gas ripen and spoil faster. Potatoes and some other foods are best kept at room temperature.

• We can let go of perfectionism. The red delicious apple may not taste as good as the small gala. Before I moved to a retirement center, I ordered “Organics to You,” receiving a bin of delicious fruits and vegetables, in season, and most of them imperfect in shape.

• We can help the gleaners, using what we need and giving surplus to food banks.

• We can eat skins and yolks and seeds.

• We can make smoothies and banana bread with over-ripe bananas, and not waste chicken, beef, and vegetable stock.

• We can give our coffee grounds to the gardeners for their raised boxes, and use our tea bags to get rid of puffy eyes.

The amazing reality about us human beings is our ability to be creative, to see possibilities for resolving our problems and satisfying our needs. Those of us who have been around awhile also have valuable experience about what is possible. Between 2006 and 2016 the population age 60 and over increased 36% from 50.7 million to 68.7 million.

Though food insecurity has a new profile, together I believe we have at least 68.7 million ways to respond.