Food Waste

40. That’s the percentage of food in this country that never gets eaten, or that’s grown and never comes to market. It’s the food we distribute that never reaches a destination or sits on grocery store shelves without finding a consumer. And it’s food consumers buy but never eat.

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People who go onto farmer’s fields to collect leftover fruits and vegetables that were left behind after a harvest due to minor blemishes or over ripe produce.


Communities can help redistribute food that would otherwise be wasted, helping to turn food insecurity into food security.


Compost is a great recycler. It takes “waste materials” and creates a necessary and vital resource, top soil.


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Nearly 40 percent of the food we grow, distribute, put on store shelves then ultimately buy as consumers never gets eaten. It’s called food waste and people are doing something about it by gleaning, composting, and learning to eat from head to tail to eliminate waste.


Matt Palmerlee is the head chef at The Branded Butcher in Athens, Georgia. Matt was once a vegan, and is now a charcuterie expert.

Olivia Sargeant is the managing partner at Farm 255 in Athens, Georgia. She splits time between the Bay Area, the Southeast, and Italy, working as a local food “market-maker” to build models for regional food economies.

Tim Dyer is the owner and butcher of West Georgia Processing in Carrollton, Georgia. Tim ages his carcasses for 5-14 days at his meat processing facility, and then cuts to order for restaurant clients and Moonshine Meat CSA.

Dave Carlson is the gleaning coordinator at Community Food Share in Boulder, Colorado. He is also a certified arborist and Permaculture consultant.

Jeremy Jackson worked at Growing Power in Chicago, Illinois. He began at Growing Power when he was just 14 years old. He is now 23 and enjoys growing food, making compost, and building new farm sites in urban Chicago.

Michael Sheerin was the chef at Blackbird Restaurant in Chicago, Illinois. Michael, a Chicago native, is now the Executive Chef of his own restaurant Cicchetti.


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Information Artwork Text

Title: Gleaning
Location: Star Route Farm, Bolinas, CA
Featuring: Marin Organic Glean Team
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

GLEANING Volunteers collect leftover fruits and vegetables after a field has been harvested, with the food usually donated to school lunch programs, non-profits and food banks.


Information Artwork Text

Title: Food Rescue
Location: Munson Farm, Boulder, CO
Featuring: Dave Carlson of Community Food Share
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

FOOD RESCUE The practice of gleaning the produce remaining in fields after a harvest to help alleviate food insecurity in local communities.

“While we have a viable food system now for those who can afford it, we definitely don’t have a viable
food system for people who can’t. Gleaning is a way to make up the difference.”

Community Food Share was created in a Boulder Garage in 1981 by volunteers who recognized the need to provide supplemental food to a growing number of
local residents with limited food security. In 2011 they rescued 43,000 pounds of local fresh produce that would have otherwise been tilled under by local farmers.
Gleaned produce is taken directly to the Community Food Share warehouse, weighed, then put in a cooler. The next day over 50 agencies from the regional food bank system pick it up.

DAVE CARLSON SAYS THAT WITH NEARLY 40% OF ALL FOOD RAISED IN THE U.S. NOT CONSUMED, FOOD BANKS CAN USE GLEANING TO ADDRESS THIS UNSUSTAINABLE ASPECT OF OUR FOOD SYSTEM AND REDUCE WASTE. The gleaning is done by community groups, local businesses, volunteers from local universities, and concerned individuals. (Many have assisted for over 15 years.) It is not unusual for volunteers to glean 80,000 pounds of fresh produce each year from farms like this. An individual consumes, on average, about one pound of food in a typical meal, so when gleaners harvest 2,000 pounds of produce this is providing meals for roughly 2,000 food insecure people in a local community.


Information Artwork Text

Title: Compost Circuit
Location: Alley behind Blackbird Restaurant, Chicago, Ill
Featuring: Jeremy Jackson and Michael Sheerin
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

THE COMPOST CIRCUIT: To kitchen, to Growing Power’s garden.

Farm to table to farm: Jeremy rises each morning at 5:30. After driving Growing Power’s staff gardeners to their green projects at Altgeld Gardens and Cabrini Green, he goes on his daily compost circuit, which is composed of nearly a dozen restaurants in the downtown area which buy Growing Power’s produce, then save their kitchen scraps for Jeremy. The compost will break down for nine months, then be added to the soil of a Growing Power garden next spring as the cycle repeats.

Thursday’s Pick Ups from Restaurants in Chicago:
1. Delightful Pastries
2. Field Museum
3. Uncommon Grounds
4. Panozzo’s Farm-to-Table Italian
5. Hoosier Mama
6. Blackbird Restaurant
7. Publican Restaurant
8. Bin Wine
9. Gourmet Guerilla


Information Artwork Text

Title: Why Compost?
Location: Full Circle Farm, Carmation, WZ
Featuring: Farmer Rick Knoll
Image Credit: Douglas Gayeton for the Lexicon of Sustainability

1. Adds nutrients back into the soil which plants utilize for 2-3 years
2. Increases organic matter and promotes beneficial organisms
3. Improves soil structure eroded by wind, water + tilling
4. Reduces dependence on petroleum-based fertilizers
5. Compost, along with cover crops rotation filter strips + nutrient and water management programs all work together to build soil health

Compost is a great recycler. It takes “waste materials” and creates a necessary and vital resource: top soil.
1. Unused vegetables directly from fields (vary seasonally)
2. Coffee chaff (byproduct of coffee roasting)
3. Dairy manure
4. Horse manure from local stables mixed with sawdust or straw
5. Organic compostable material (from neighbors like you!)

The pile heats up to 131-150 degrees for one week, then heat loving bacteria start their dance to degrade the organic matter in the pile and create humus. The process takes 2-3 months.

Farming the Soil with Food Waste

By Tucker Taylor

Oftentimes, visitors to my gardens are surprised to discover that our compost pile doesn’t smell bad. This is because many of us have grown up thinking of our food scraps as garbage: something that rots and stinks and attracts flies. It’s time for each of us to stop thinking of our vegetable scraps — apple cores, onion peels, carrot shavings — as “waste” and start thinking of them as a valuable resource; an essential element in the cycle of sustainable, organic food production.

“Waste” when it comes to food, is a misnomer. Waste is defined as material that is not wanted or the unusable remains of byproducts of something. But most of our food “waste” can be recycled into the system of soil building, plant growth and plant consumption. Through recycling, waste becomes compost.

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed and is used as a soil amendment to increase soil structure, fertility, and moisture retention. The compost food web is composed of a diversified array of microscopic and macroscopic decomposers. Some of the microbes act as translators in a symbiotic relationship with the root hairs. They break down organic nutrients into an inorganic form for the plant to uptake in exchange for carbohydrates and sugars.

I consider myself a farmer of soil as much as, if not more so, a farmer of produce. Without healthy, living soil, I couldn’t grow the vibrant, flavorful and nutrient-rich produce we enjoy so much. And without compost, I couldn’t create healthy, living soil. And without food “waste” soil would just be dirt.

Tucker TaylorTucker Taylor is an expert in certified organic farming, specialty produce, and sustainability. Taylor strongly believes in soil cultivation—with a healthy dose of compost—as the key to a good harvest. He is now the first Director of Culinary Gardens for Jackson Family Wines, where he spearheads the cultivation of all the company’s gardens globally. Prior to joining the Kendall Jackson family, Tucker oversaw landscaping at every property of the world-renowned chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants (French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon, Ad Hoc), setting the standard for today’s farm-to-table fine dining. Follow him on Instagram @farmert
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This video is the not so uncommon story of a family that dumpster dives. We went out with the father in the early hours of the morning to a Trader Joe’s that supplies his family with over 75% of their food. With a trunk full of free bread and bananas, we made breakfast.


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