Clean Plate Club Green - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Clean Plate Club Green

A frequent encouragement in Our Daily Green's youth was to join the Clean Plate Club, echoed closely by admonitions to eat our peas because there were children starving in Africa. It seems the wisdom of our parents and grandparents wasn't so far fetched.

With one billion malnutritioned people in the world and nearly 40 tons of food wasted in the US annually, (from: Tristram Stuart's site, Waste); the true hunger issues are about poor management of the resources in question, rather than lack of actual food.

Driven by consumer demand for perfect appearing produce and predetermined sizes for packaging, thousands of pounds of food are simply thrown out for aesthetic reasons. Additionally, this demand has dictated more stringent factory farming methods in order to guarantee certain sized cuts of meat to fit properly in the store cases.

Several groups around the world have come up with creative solutions to salvage such wasted food, including the critically acclaimed BBC production, The Great British Waste Menu,  
The Great British Waste Menu followed four of the nation’s top chefs – Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer – as they journeyed deep into the heart of Britain’s food waste problem, They explored how and why the nation throws away and reject huge quantities of perfectly edible food.

Cameras followed the chefs as they sourced shocking amounts of unwanted food from every link in the food chain – from supermarkets to ordinary homes, markets to farms – and then transformed it into mouth-watering dishes. As the grand finale the chefs faced a unique and near-impossible task: to create a fabulous banquet for over 60 VIPs using the food that the rest of us don’t want. Could the chefs create restaurant-standard food using ingredients that have been discarded, rejected or deemed unsuitable for sale? Were they be able to change the way Britons think about waste food? YES!!!
A less media focused approach is the communal dining experience in Brooklyn, NYC, at the underground eatery, Grub. According to the NY Times, dumpster diving outside restaurants and supermarkets has generated a waste free and practical dinner club that meets twice a month in an urban loft in Brooklyn.

wasting food
WWII war poster
While both of the previous stories are extreme approaches, the extreme is what will lead the everyday consumer in a direction of less wasteful consumption. Our Daily Green is not suggesting dumpster diving for meals, but instead suggests directions to move so there is no food to dive for in dumpsters.

Can we accept irregularly sized fruits and vegetables, imperfectly shaped bread, irregularly sized cuts of meat? Can we learn how to use what we purchase before it goes spoils or compost it and return it to the earth if it does?

When I am at a grocery store, I go to the damaged produce first. Often, I find bags of precut fresh vegetables, about to expire. This is when my freezer is my best friend. I bring the veggies home, blanch them quickly until they are brightly colored, drain them and freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen solid, I repackage for a quick vegetable side dish another day.

One of the most crucial elements to waste-free food consumption is a cursory ability to cook. Some of Our Daily Green's favorite found recipes are at my fingertips based merely on what is in my pantry. I enter the ingredients that I need to use up before they expire and the Internet produces several suggested recipes. We've dined on milk braised pork loin (when we overbought milk), steamed greens from salad that was getting wilted, Brussels sprouts with bacon, apple and onion (when the apple was getting too mushy to eat), etc. Simply shop your freezer and pantry and refrigerator before letting the food go to waste.

Challenge yourself to not throw out food, heeding the echoes of our forefathers. They were onto something. A new waste free world is beckoning and the first step begins with us.

Food waste facts

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