Friday, August 14, 2015

Food Foolish Files #3: Summer 2015 Update

I call it the "Diaper Syndrome." It works like this.

You get married and are going along just fine when one day your wife announces she's pregnant.  On your drive to work the next day you see a billboard for diapers.  First time everMust have been erected the night before.  Then a bus goes by and it has a diaper ad on its side.  Weird.  And then there's a lady at the park who is diapering her baby.  Do people diaper babies outside? 

Then, of course, you make the mistake of typing “we’re going to have a baby” in a Gmail to a friend and you are inundated with on-line ads for diapers.

Been there?  Who knew anyone thought about diapers that much?

Well that's exactly what’s happened with Food Foolish.  John Mandyck and I researched and wrote about food waste and its connection to hunger and climate change.  Now, everywhere I look, I see, well--food waste.  Or more importantly, people, organizations and countries trying to solve the issue of waste food. 

I've been keeping a log of clippings, and here's just a few you might find interesting.

Take, for example, the first-ever communal refrigerator in Spain.  It's a fantastic way to keep good food from ending up in landfills.  And the “Solidarity Fridge” (as it's called) preserves not just food, but meat, fish and produce--the food that is most perishable but also most nourishing.  It’s a “pioneering project in the Basque town of Galdakao, population about 30,000," the article states.  "The goal is to avoid wasting perfectly good food and groceries. In April, the town established Spain's first communal refrigerator. It sits on a city sidewalk, with a tidy little fence around it, so that no one mistakes it for an abandoned appliance. Anyone can deposit food inside or help themselves.”  (Thanks to Alfredo 83I for the link.)

If you have a copy of Food Foolish, check the interview we did with Brian Greene of the Houston Food Bank (which has a great website here).  He makes a point that supports the pressing need for ideas like the Solidarity Fridge:
“When food banks started we were processed-food oriented,” said Greene, looking back over his thirty-year career.  “We thought about cans and boxes--dry stuff.  That’s what was readily available.  In the early days we were in the ‘calories business.’  Since then, he noted, the food bank industry has matured and grown more sophisticated.  “Most food banks don’t see the world that way anymore,” Greene added.  “The people that we’re serving can have worse health problems than the general population, problems often associated with bad calories.  If anything, we now need to be focused on good calories over bad calories.  This fortunately correlates well with what is still probably the best opportunity for capturable waste in the U.S.,” he concluded.  “Fruits and vegetables.  It’s still billions that don’t make it to market.  We’re trying to help capture that ‘good calorie’ waste.”
Here is a stunning visual guide to food waste, courtesy of The Guardian.  It reminds us of one of the central themes of Food Foolish: Each year 1.3 billion metric tons of food, about a third of all that is produced, is wasted, including about 45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat.  Just one picture:

In April, Brown’s Super Stores in West Philadelphia, through a program organized by UPENN, gathered up 22,000 pounds of good-to-eat produce.  It was headed for the landfill because it didn’t look good or was scheduled to be restocked with fresher items.  Philadelphia struggles with a 26 percent poverty rate, so getting this nutritious food onto the table of city residents not only feeds the hungry but reduces greenhouse gas from items that would otherwise end up in landfills.  It’s a double win.  Solomon Katz, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Krogman Growth Center, said, “We had to see with poverty where we could make significant differences. Food waste was the lowest hanging fruit on the tree, so to speak.”  (Hey, that’s our line!)

And those brown and bruised bananas we all have in our kitchens from time to time?  The culinary arts folks at Drexel University pureed and froze them, making banana ice cream.  How cool is that? 

Many of the solutions involving reduced meat and produce food waste are dependent on the global cold chain, one of the wonders of the modern world.  We address the cold chain--including its ever-improving sustainability--in Food Foolish.  Here's a recent interview with Pawanexh Kohli, Chief Advisor/CEO of India's National Center for Cold-chain Development.  India has a crushing need for an enhanced and expanded cold chain to feed its people.  Kohli says: "Without the proper application of cooling, most modern society would crumble, not just failing the food and medical supply lines, but also disrupting the data management and human comfort systems."

Finally, when it comes to food waste, the folks in Singapore are experiencing their own kind of “diaper syndrome.”  A study done by students from the National University of Singapore's Chua Thian Poh Community Leadership Programme, working with Zero Waste SG, showed that nine out of 10 people in Singapore are concerned about food waste.  Not only that, but they wanted to do more to solve the problem.  Last year, Singapore threw away 788,600 metric tons of food, of which only about 13 percent was recycled.

They know they can do better.

We can do better.  (And that’s definitely our line!)

John @JohnMandyck and I @ericbs post on the topic of food waste regularly on Twitter.  Please join us.  What you’ll find is that food waste and food waste solutions are everywhere.  Just like diapers.

It almost begs for volume two of Food Foolish.


(For a look at some of our clippings, see here, and to hear John addressing this issue on the radio click here.  John's blog is here.  And if you'd like a paperback copy or e-book of Food Foolish, please visit Amazon.)