Brock Shepherd on trimming our waste line

The chief organizer of Trashed & Wasted tells us why food waste is not just the buzz topic of the year.

The media were all over the subject of food waste when Bourdain’s documentary came out. Massimo Bottura came to town promoting his book; we helped raise awareness; I did an event!

I’m coming off a bit cynical here because there’s so much work ahead, but we have to start making progress somewhere.

The stats are shocking: Upwards of fifty per cent of all food doesn’t make it from farm to fork. So much of it is wasted just because someone decides it isn’t pretty enough for us.

An incredible amount of fossil fuel is used to produce, ship and ultimately dispose of food that never gets eaten.

At home, about half the food we bring home from the store gets tossed, from raw ingredients to cooked meals. We do a good job of composting with our green bins, but let’s try to put less into the compost and actually eat the food we buy. As a bonus, we’ll save money on our grocery bill.

let’s try to put less into the compost and actually eat the food we buy

Think of all the food that is cooked in restaurants only to be thrown away. Maybe portions could be smaller? Margins are so tight in restaurants they would appreciate retrieving some profit from the waste bin. (Chefs – call me, I can help.)

What happened to the stereotypical, hard-assed European chef who watched over every trembling cook’s shoulder so that nothing was wasted in his kitchen?

Cooking schools have excess food from labs and demonstrations, and on the other side of this, we have hungry students using food banks. I see an opportunity here.

I blew a gasket when I heard that citrus is being thrown away at bars with impressive cocktail menus because they just need the zest to garnish the drinks they serve, but can’t find a use for the actual fruit! And don’t get me started about straws.

Grocery stores are approaching food waste in their ways. What we don’t see is what happens behind the scenes. That compactor outside your local chain grocer is full of food that has not gone bad yet, it just didn’t meet our cosmetic standards.

“Expiry dates” should be renamed to be “past date code” to help with consumer perception and understanding.

So what can you do at home to reduce how much food we waste?

Take an inventory of what you have before you go shopping, so you know what you need. Or just use your phone to take a photograph of the inside of your fridge.

“Expiry dates” should be renamed to be “past date code” to help with consumer perception

Use your freezer better. Make too much of something? Freeze leftovers in small batches. And do a monthly U.F.O. check for unidentified frozen objects.

Your crisper is the place to look for soup ingredients. Wilted doesn’t mean garbage.

Food is an integral part of our lives, we need to eat every day to survive, and we take a lot of pleasure in it. We’ll enjoy it even more if we can just put some effort into thinking about reducing food waste.

We put so much thought into keeping careful track of where our food comes from, let’s resolve to start thinking about where it eventually goes.

Words by Brock Shepherd