The majority of the program followed two filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin as they spent six months living on only “rescued” food. They were not allowed to buy any food; instead, they bought or “rescued” culled produce from grocery stores, went through dumpsters, and re-discovered the ancient practice of gleaning fields. A panel discussion at the end of the program, after the two filmmakers discovered the realities of living on rescued food, featured MSNBC’s Tom Colicchio who moderated a panel discussion to examine the price of food, the mysteries of food labeling and what we can do to curb food waste.
At the end of six months, they had collected hundreds of packages of dry goods food and almost never ran out of fresh refrigerated foods. During the experiment they only spent $200 on food purchases, and estimated they rescued approximately $20,000 in good food. They ate well and prepared nutritious meals that appeared to be gourmet quality, as they kept a photographic diary of the food they recovered and the meals they prepared.
The panel discussion at the end of the program lead by Tom Colicchio featured guests:
Jonathan Bloom writes about why we waste food, why it matters, and what we can do about it. He is the author of “American Wasteland” which explores how we waste food and the impact it has on society and the environment. He also writes the blog www.wastedfood.com.
Emily Broad Leib is a Lecturer on Law and Clinical Instructor, as well as Deputy Director of the Harvard Law School Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation. She co-founded and directs the Center’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, the first law school clinic in the nation devoted to providing legal and policy solutions to nonprofit and government clients in order to address the health, economic, and environmental challenges facing our food system.
Michael Curtin joined DC Central Kitchen in 2004. Under his leadership, DC Central Kitchen’s Fresh Start Catering has expanded from traditional catering opportunities to include contracts to provide locally-sourced, scratched-cooked meals to schools in DC.
They discussed the legal aspects surrounding the “use or sell by” date labeling of packaged goods. First of all, there are no Federal regulations that require food to be date labeled, except that both month and year need to be printed. If a calendar date is shown, then the words “sell by” or “use before” need to be expressed explaining the date. Infant formula date labeling is ruled by federal regulations and is the only product requiring strict expiration dates.
Furthermore, the labeling dates we see on packaging are arbitrarily put there by the manufacturers, and most of the time does not represent a true expiration or determination whether the food product is safe to consume--as the couple who lived on rescued food discovered.
One of the problems in agriculture is no mechanism exists for growers to distribute the majority of the produce grown that never reaches retailers because it is not perfect quality. In one stunning example, a celery grower focusing on selling celery hearts, stripped the majority of the outer stalks of celery in the field and cut off the top. In this instance, only one third of celery bunch was actually used and rest sent to a land fill, which presents an additional problem in the environmental food chain.
Most of the food waste by growers and consumers ends up in landfills. According to the Agriculture Department, Americans discard more than 25 percent annually of all domestically produced food. A 2009 study showed that a quarter of US water and 4 percent of US oil consumption every year go into producing and distributing food that ultimately ends up in landfills, which ultimately produces methane gas in the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat within our atmosphere. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, landfills account for 34 percent of all methane emissions in the US. The unused food or discarded leftovers you threw in the trash add to our collective carbon footprint.
Documentaries like “Food Inc.” and “Just Eat It” represent the beginning of a movement toward transparency in the food industry as well as greater consumer awareness of how food is grown, animals raised, and distribution mechanisms contributing to excessive waste. Also, the negative impact on the environment and use of water and oil in the food cycle stimulates efficiency methodologies and conservation practices in the market place and at home.
As consumers we can take stock of how we manage our food supplies. Are we using all the food we buy effectively to prevent waste? Composting is back in the conversation, so it’s not just a “hippy communion” hold over from the 60s. Composting as much as you can prevents sending food to landfills and reduces greenhouse gases.
Visit the “Just Eat It” website listed below for video clips and where the movie might be showing near you or available online.
is retired and lives in Clearlake, California. She has three grown
children and one grandson and a Bachelor’s degree in Health Services
Administration from St. Mary’s College in Moraga California. On the
home front Dava enjoys time with her family, reading, gardening, cooking