One Person’s Trash is Everyone’s Treasure
On Friday October 10th, 2015, Fruit Share Manitoba hosted a premiere of the documentary film Just Eat It (by Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer) to celebrate World Food Day. The premiere took place at Tec Voc High School in Winnipeg and upon arriving at the school, audience members were greeted with samplings from local vendors offering Manitoba-grown and/or produced edibles for sale. It was a nice to mingle and talk with local vendors about their products before the show began.
Although some documentaries are full of useful facts and information, they lack the pizazz to help them convey their message. That is not the case for this particular film. Just Eat It chronicles a 6 month experiment undertaken by Grant and Jenny, a Vancouver-based couple that set out to eat only by consuming food that had been thrown away, or by accepting meals served by family or friends.
Most people are aware of food waste, but the sheer numbers are mind-boggling such as one statistic provided in the movie: 40% of the food that is produced in North America is never eaten. In this film, we see a North American culture where we are obsessed with food in a way that is clearly detrimental to the planet. Fruits and vegetables need to look a certain way; they must be the correct size, shape and colour or they will be left on the shelf. There is the obsession with "Best by” dates and the refusal to buy the last of anything left on the shelf.
As we follow Grant and Jenny on their quest to find their next meal through dumpster diving, we are treated to jaw-dropping images of wasted food. It defies reality and common sense to see perfectly edible food being thrown away by the truckload based on the superficial and ever-changing desires of the consumer. Items are being thrown in the trash due to mislabelling or being too close to the “best before” dates. Some of the most powerful shots we see on screen are when Grant and Jenny find a dumpster with sealed containers of hummus still a year from their printed expiration date, copious amounts of eggs that are still perfectly intact and edible, and large amounts of organic chocolate trashed because it was missing French labelling (lacked the required translated labels), to name a few.
Throughout the film, we see the life cycle of food, the amount of energy needed to grow and produce crops, and the global impact of such vast quantities of food ending up in landfills. We also hear from a variety of sources for whom food is close to the heart—farmers, producers, advocates—that explain in their own words how and why our food is wasted. The film concludes with tips on how to reduce food waste at home, and we are left with a profound sense of obligation to do our part as consumers in our everyday lives
Post-premiere, there was a panel discussion hosted by local radio personality Ace Burpee. On the panel were representatives from CMU farms, Winnipeg Harvest, and Fruit share Manitoba. Discussion centered on concrete suggestions on how to decrease food waste, other than just composting. Both the film and panel discussion convinced me that we all need to do better in this area.
Here are some important tips:
Tip 1: Be Savvy about Dates
Stop throwing away based solely on dates (unless it is infant formula, meal replacements or liquid diets). “Best before” dates are manufacturers’ recommendations. If the food item has expired and is sealed, the taste may be slightly altered after the “Best before” date, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe to eat.
Tip 2: Dance then Donate
During holidays or parties, when left with an abundance of leftover food, consider “diverting” it to shelters or food banks.
Tip 3: Plan, Plan, Plan
Plan out your meals. Reduce overspending and buying too many things at once which spoil quickly in the fridge.
Tip 4: Store Properly
Salvage food by using the freezer in addition to pickling and canning methods to preserve food and reduce waste.
Tip 5: Make it Visual
Have a "Eat me first" bin in the fridge where you place food that will start to go bad and/or deteriorate in a few days.
Lesson plans for the documentary Just Eat It http://www.foodwastemovie.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/HD14-DFS-JustEatIt-Educational-Curriculum.pdf
Food Waste Resources http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2013/09/23/12-resources-teaching-food-waste/
Interactive graphic on food consumption from around the world
Written and Submitted by: Krystyna Luczak
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