Upcycling Food Waste

FoodCowboyImage courtesy of Food Cowboy

I’ve spent the last three weeks talking about reducing the 222 million tonnes of food waste in our homes, restaurants and farms. Today I want to look at some great case studies of how waste is being upcycled into other products. By highlighting these examples, I hope to inspire you to implement them in your communities. Wasting food is an economic, environmental and social issue and a hot button issue right now. Being hungry in developed countries is not only a matter of not having enough healthy food to eat. It is linked to physical and mental illness, employment status and other complications as reported by Woltil and others.

CropMobster, Food Cowboy and the Alameda Kitchen are part of a growing number of social entrepreneurs that are trying to reduce food waste through all parts of the supply chain while starting a sustainable business as seen in this PBS video. Food Cowboy, CropMobster and the Almeda Kitchen use crowdsourcing, mobile technology and a passion for making meaningful change to tackle this issue.

CropMobster tackles food waste from the farm. Cropmobster uses social media data to connect farmers that have surplus crops with people who need it in the San Francisco Bay area. It taps into the power of the crowd in 12 California counties to help reduce the waste. What if other communities around the world followed these models to identify people’s food needs and reduce food waste? Crowdsourcing is a tool we need to make an even bigger dent into the 795 million people around the globe that are hungry.

Food Cowboy leverages mobile technology to help in the transportation of surplus foods. They have an mobile app that connects truck drivers hauling “rejected” produce with food charities, compost facilities and other outlets. Commercial food companies such as distributors, wholesale and retail markets and restaurants and caterers schedule a pick up with the app for their food to be redistributed to approved charities. Food Cowboy is addressing the issue of food waste in the distribution portion of the supply chain.

Food Shift’s Alameda Kitchen in California and the Innovation Kitchen in Wisconsin are what I’d consider the gold standards in using creativity and food scraps to upcycle leftovers into a new product. In 2015 the Alameda Kitchen received 5,000 lbs of food from farms and distributors that didn’t meet cosmetic standards and turned it into a whole lot of deliciousness. The Innovation Kitchen takes bruised and blemished fruits such as apples and butternut squash and turns them into purees, soups and applesauce and thus extending the shelf life. With a $50,000 grant, they’re able to produce over 4,000 cups of applesauce a day from the donated apples alone which they then in turn give to six food banks that serve the entire state of Wisconsin.

According to David Lee, Executive Director of Feeding Wisconsin, “Hunger is not a production problem. It’s a distribution problem. Every farmer that grows any sort of food wants it to end up on the tables of people, right? They don’t want it to go to waste. This sort of [upcycled] product helps us fight hunger and increase the efficiency and sustainability of our food system.”

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