Food waste – there’s a LOT Of it! The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that 40% of of edible food goes to waste. It’s trashed because it goes bad before we can eat it, or because it looks “odd.” Food waste makes up the largest proportion of the trash in our landfills, and as it rots it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide. None of that is good news, and lots of folks are looking at how to stop food before it gets to landfills, and put it into bellies instead.
While I was thinking about this, I met an interesting fellow on a recent Wednesday who has one solution. This fellow, John, told me that he was teaching a cooking class on Friday at the local food co-op for kids, on using healthy food that was past its prime. Well, I have kids interested in learning to cook, like healthy food next to my cake, and have been known to find food past its prime in our fridge. So, Friday, I packed up our 3 kids, plus a bonus kid, and we headed to the co-op.
John showed the kids a selection of post-prime veggies and fruits he had collected from the co-op, including squash, peppers, garlic, onions and mushrooms. Wielding a large knife, John transformed the wrinkled peppers into julienned strips, the sprouted garlic into minced nuggets, and the marred squash made semi-circles suitable for sautéing.
Quesadillas were on the menu. Two pans going, the kids tried out the woebegone veggies folded into tortillas and blanketed with cheese, and pronounced them fine.
Next stop on our tour (in my dreams!), is the Intermarche supermarket chain in France. They have begun marking the more “interesting” looking produce in a campaign called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.” By selling odd-looking produce that wouldn’t have made the cut otherwise, they’ve reduced produce waste by tons – in each store. Their biggest problem now is to keep stores stocked with these funky fruits and veggies. Brilliant! See it in action below:
(Are you a tablet user? Then click here to see the video.)
It’s disturbing to think about how much waste there is, and the challenges in distribution of food. But it’s an amazing experience to see how we can all come together to have fun coming up with solutions. Maybe you can work with your customers using these solutions to put more food in their kitchens, and a little more profit in your pocket.
How can we encourage this, first locally, then beyond?
I don’t know if the produce associations still sort to certain specs and send everything substandard to the dump nowadays, but this was, at one time standard practice. Stupidity from the land of plenty.
I came onto this practice in the peach growing areas of the Western Slope of Colorado in the mid 1960’s. Peaches not meeting specs were not allowed to be purchased, even if they were good enough to eat.
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