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Posts Tagged ‘lovin spoonfuls’

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Photo: Fusion/Food Exposed
“On a recent night in New York City, a group of foragers pulled 50 perfectly edible bagels and a bag of untarnished, fresh produce out of the garbage,” wrote Eillie Anzilotti in a Fast Company article. And that’s just the beginning.

Full-time but low-paid workers use food pantries; farmworkers seek out secret donation sites so their kids can eat. And meanwhile, where there is so much hunger, perfectly good food goes to waste.

I was watching the documentary Money, by Manny Kirchheimer, recently and heard an interviewee talk about being a “freegan.” A clearly well-educated and accomplished woman, she just couldn’t bear seeing all the food that goes to waste in New York and joined a freegan group. Of course, I had to look it up.

This explanation comes from a 2018 Fast Company article by Eillie Anzilotti.

“On a cold March night in New York City, snow still on the ground from a late-season nor’easter, a small group gathered around a pile of trash outside a Morton Williams supermarket in Midtown East. There were around 40 to 50 plastic bags piled high. A lot of them held normal waste–discarded packaging, crusts from people’s lunches. But Janet Kalish, an organizer with New York’s freegan group, opened one bag to find around 50 intact, edible bagels.

“Kalish and a handful of dedicated freegans — people who pull edible food from piles of waste in an art commonly known as ‘dumpster diving’ — organize tours in New York every couple of weeks. During meetings, Kalish and her co-organizers will discuss the larger issues of the city’s food system, including why so much edible waste ends up on the street. They’ll give newcomers advice on how and when to forage (late at night but before garbage pickup is ideal), what to look for, and how to make use of their salvaged sustenance.” More here.

If dumpster diving seems too extreme, you may like the impressive array of startups and nonprofits trying to get unused — but good — food to those who need it.

As Scott Kirsner reported in December, “The stats on food waste are staggering: Up to 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is never consumed, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The bulk of that gets tossed out — by restaurants, stores, and homes, according to ReFED, a California nonprofit that focuses on reducing food waste. And when it winds up in a landfill, it rots and produces methane — a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than carbon dioxide.

But one bit of good news is that there has been an increase in activity locally, on the part of both startups and nonprofits, to try to reduce food waste and ensure that more food gets to people who can’t afford it, while it’s still edible.

Cambridge Crops, a startup in Somerville, is developing a new kind of protective layer for foods. It’s made from an edible protein extracted from natural silk. The company has been testing its coating on foods such as ground beef, cherries, and spinach leaves, demonstrating that it can inhibit the growth of bacteria and extend the amount of time the food can be sold by as much as 50 percent. The company raised $4 million from investors in July.

“Boston-based Phood Solutions is working on a system that couples cameras, scales, and software in a kitchen — say, at a big hotel or restaurant — to automatically identify what kinds of food are going to waste, and how much of it. …

“The Boston startup Spoiler Alert runs an online trading platform that enables food producers and distributors to get rid of excess inventory by selling it or donating it. Spoiler Alert charges subscription fees to sellers, as well as fees based on transaction volume. …

“Some of the food sold through Spoiler Alert winds up at discount grocery outlets like Daily Table, which sells food that is nearing its expiration date. …

“The nonprofit Food for Free distributed about 100,000 pounds of surplus food in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, says executive director Sasha Purpura. It asks donors such as Harvard University to freeze excess prepared food that would otherwise go uneaten, and then divides it into meals for people in need — including financially strapped students at state and community colleges, Purpura says.

“Food for Free will soon start collecting surplus food from Boston’s two convention centers, and in May the Cambridge biotech Biogen set up a kitchen in Kendall Square for the nonprofit’s exclusive use. …

“Hunger, says Ashley Stanley, ‘is not a problem of supply, but of distribution.’ Her Boston nonprofit, Lovin’ Spoonfuls, tries to address that. It collects food that would otherwise go unsold at grocery stores like Whole Foods and Big Y and distributes it to soup kitchens, safe houses, and after-school programs around the state.”

In the Globe article, you can also read about Boston Area Gleaners, CommonWealth Kitchen, Brewer’s Crackers, and more.

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Photo: Daily Table
Fresh surplus food is sold for less, with help from a distribution platform called Spoiler Alert.

A logistics company that moves unwanted, unneeded but perfectly fresh food to people who do want and need it has chosen the perfect Internet slang for its name: Spoiler Alert. Ordinarily, “spoiler alert” is what you say if you are recommending or reviewing a film or book and don’t want to spoil the ending for someone else. In this case, it’s about delivering fresh food where it’s needed before it spoils.

Janelle Nanos writes at the Boston Globe, “Spoiled food is a costly problem, accounting for about $218 billion in financial losses to US farms, businesses, and consumers each year, according to ReFED, a group of companies, nonprofits, and foundations that was formed last year to minimize food waste. Since its launch in 2015, Spoiler Alert’s food-matching platform has been adopted by 200 businesses and nonprofits in New England to cut down on waste and encourage donations by making them easier to track.

“The company was created by two MIT Sloan School of Management graduates, Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina, and their chief technology officer, Marty Sirkin, and has worked its way through the city’s accelerator programs, winning $50,000 from MassChallenge in 2015 and a spot in this year’s Techstars Boston cohort. …

” ‘At Daily Table I like to think of Spoiler Alert as an opportunity to further meet our mission of capturing healthy, tasty products before they make it to compost or trash,’ said Ismail Samad, executive chef of the Dorchester grocery store, which sells food and prepared meals gleaned from donations. He said he relies heavily on Spoiler Alert to source the food for his store shelves.

“But part of Spoiler Alert’s recent success can be credited to another, rather wonky aspect of its platform, which helps companies navigate the tax code. [In December 2015], Congress passed a bill that expanded the tax breaks companies can receive for donating food, making it easier for small businesses to donate and for farmers to assess the fair market value of their inventories.” Read how it all comes together, here.

A nonprofit organization that is also a MassChallenge winner and does similar work in the region is Lovin’ Spoonfuls, which I blogged about here. MassChallenge is a startup accelerator that helps new companies get launched. Its judges are partial to companies that can do well by doing good, bless their hearts.

Photo: Lovin’ Spoonfuls
Lovin’ Spoonfuls donates food to Safe Haven, a housing program run by the Bedford (MA) Veterans Administration.

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I’ve been encouraged to see an increased focus on keeping food from going to waste when so many people are hungry.

In the Boston area, for example, Spoiler Alert and 2012 Mass Challenge winner Lovin’ Spoonfuls are just two of several local organizations moving leftovers and surplus to places they can be used. And how about Daily Table, which makes delicious prepared meals from surplus ingredients and sells the meals at low prices?

Meanwhile, in France, action is taking place on a national scale.

Writes NewCo Shift, “Back in 2014, the third largest supermarket chain in France, Intermarché, launched their memorable ‘Inglorious’ fruits and vegetables campaign. To help reduce ‘cosmetic’ food waste, Intermarché sold scarred, disfigured and odd-shaped fruits and vegetables for 30 per cent less than ‘normal-looking’ produce. On the back of their playful marketing and waste-conscious campaign, many supermarkets all over the world followed suit and wonky veg has been the unlikely pin-up of food waste ever since.

“[France was] the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them to donate to food banks and charities instead. The law was a result of a grassroots campaign launched by councillor, Arash Derambarsh. After his petition gained more than 200,000 signatures and celebrity support in just four months, he managed to persuade French MP’s to adopt the regulation, which is now being copied in different parts of the world. Since the ban has been in place, over 300,000 tonnes of food has been saved from landfill and redistributed to France’s three networks of food banks. …

“Let’s not forget France’s most shimmering, sequin-laden, food-saving exports: Disco Soupe! Disco Soupe (or disco soup) has captured the imagination of the world, proving to be one of the most fun events out there, while reducing food waste. Strangers collide, music spins, food is saved from the clutches of the bin, chopped to the beat and eaten with rhythm.”

More at NewCo. If you like this topic, you can also subscribe to Zero Waste Weekly here. Do you tweet? You might like to follow the entertaining @UglyFruitAndVeg. Send your whimsical pictures of produce to those folks and join the fun.

Photo: Shift.NewCo.co

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