Attending a screening of a food documentary may feel unnecessary because America’s poor diet and over-reliance on processed foods is now a big loud national conversation. Words like local, organic, sustainable, farm to table, fresh, whole, raw, and clean are ubiquitous descriptors for how we aspire to eat. But rather then fetishizing a carefully curated diet, The Park Church Co-op and Down to Earth Farmers Markets recently partnered to host a different kind of food discussion. Both groups share an interest in examining the ethically questionable practices surrounding food distribution. On Sunday May 22nd they chose to screen “Just Eat It!” The documentary’s call-to-arms statistic: Americans waste 40% of our food.
The doc gently leads you through stuff you’ve seen (think Freegans) and inevitably a few things you haven’t. One of the films strengths is it abundance of actionable advice that doesn’t require dumpster diving. There is a lot we can do to reduce food waste in our homes. Example: think about cooking with what you have rather then what you are in the mood for. Its also a reminder of the mind blowing amount of waste that happens before food even gets to the store and suggests ways to work towards implementing waste reducing food policies. Simply asking you grocery store manager what happens to food that is past the “use by” date is one easy way to start. Because “use by” is just an indication of peak quality rather then food safety, all the food pulled from store shelves would ideally find its way into the hands of those whose food budget and/or food stamps are inadequate. We don’t have any policies regulating this type of massive grocery store and warehouse dumping. Other methods to reduce waste like gleaning (harvesting what food remains after a commercial harvest or hand harvesting fields that were not profitable enough to harvest commercially) and creating animal feed are explored as well.
Anther lasting impressions was how emotionally charge issues surrounding food can be. Mentioning excessive restaurant portions, one subject notes, “You either overeat and feel bad or you throw it away and feel bad.” Catering managers and hosts remarked that you should never run out of food at a party. Having just enough is anxiety producing. And who doesn’t feel guilty tossing those wrinkly veggies they forgot about in the crisper?
The film was followed by a short chat with Laura O’Neill, co-owner of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and Selemati Pagi and Michael Ottley, Director of the Church of the Holy Apostle Soup Kitchen in Chelsea (the second largest soup kitchen in the nation!). The group tossed around ideas about how they work to reduce waste at home and within their organizations. Composting was not emphasized in the film but is one option we discussed for responsibly disposing of unusable food. Check out the event calendar at downtoearthmarkets.com for info on compost drop off in the hood (in case you didn’t get one of those brown bins) and more farmers market related fun. Healthy snacks for the event were donated by McGorlick Park’s Down to Earth Farmer’s Market vendors.