La Faim du Monde: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

La Faim du Monde is a project that aims to reduce food waste by raising awareness around the issue, as well as, by finding solutions that businesses can implement in practice.

saynotofoodwaste.thisistheirstory.sustainability.foodwaste.awareness.grow.share.travel.food.2

2. How long have you been in business? 

Our first website was launched in 2012, and the first trip where 100% of all the food consumed came from dumpster diving, was completed in 2014.

Currently, the plan is to travel from Paris to New York, only consuming food  that is destined for the dustbin. This journey will invovled bicycyling and paddle boating across the ocean.

saynotofoodwaste.thisistheirstory.sustainability.foodwaste.awareness.grow.share.travel.food.9

To bring global attention to this issue we started a petition urging the best before dates on food to be removed in Europe. We are also researching the freeze drying process on food, to see if it’s a better option that sending it to the landfill. The process of freeze drying food, where the water is removed (not by heating the product but by freezing it),  enables the food to last as long as needed. It’s a bit like putting it in the freezer, only you don’t need more energy for it, and the food regains its original taste when water is added again.

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

I realized that we were wasting a big amount of food when working, while completing my studies, and I felt the need to do something about it. I couldn’t continue working at the same place when I saw that we were in some ways responsible for the starvation of people, without talking or raising awareness about agriculture and the environment.

saynotofoodwaste.thisistheirstory.sustainability.foodwaste.awareness.grow.share.travel.food.1

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

I’m not sure we achieved anything yet. There have been many conferences around Europe, but how can we know if it’s useful? This takes time.

5. How do you measure success?

As we are dealing with a global issue it’s quite difficult. We will know this once we have reached a goal of creating a world where no person goes hungry. On a smaller scale, people give us feedback on how they realized the importance of this issue and decided to take actions as well, starting from their home (for instance, by wasting less food).

saynotofoodwaste.thisistheirstory.sustainability.foodwaste.awareness.grow.share.travel.food.6

6. What have you learned in the process? 

Lots of things about nutrition. About how our body works, how to work with others, how to share knowledge, and other useful things like that.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

Anyone who wants to reduce food waste as well. I suppose the best thing they can do is to join us!  :D haha. No, just be happy about what you do!

saynotofoodwaste.thisistheirstory.sustainability.foodwaste.awareness.grow.share.travel.food.5

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Well, if we convince the European Parliament to remove the best before dates and get all supermarkets to freeze dry their food rather than throwing it away, I’m not sure what we would do. If every one had enough to eat I think we would want to bring peace, try to ask people to create globally a universal anthem, and show everyone that the most important human values are shared by all of us. It would be an anthem to life, love, empathy, fraternity, joy, etc., and it would probably help people stop considering every problem as being caused by someone else. We are dreamers, but we work hard on making our dreams come true, and we are not alone, maybe someday you’ll join us … If you are on Facebook, you can find us here.

And if you do want to join us, then please sign the petition to ask the European Parliament to remove the best before dates.

saynotofoodwaste.thisistheirstory.sustainability.foodwaste.awareness.grow.share.travel.food.8

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Alice, who is part of the team made me a really good vegan and organic breakfast. Fresh fruits, oranges, banana, apple, kiwi and soy yogurt. Also, some avocado on black bread, cereals, and to drink, a british tea. It was really good for me, especially because I can never eat really good things when I am in Paris.

by Dubanchet Baptiste

Food as health or death

Dear Readers,

Today, I’d like to share with you my personal thoughts on two new studies. Both are about the effects of food consumption on the body, yet they focus on very different aspects. While one study highlights the benefits of consuming diverse foods, the other instills a sense of fear, which may damage the food waste movement (but only if we let it).

The reason this is important is because the studies highlight once again that we are what we eat. And being very intellectual creatures, who don’t just rely on word of mouth to make decisions, these findings can present some important facts on which to build sound and logical conclusions.

Ok, enough with the introduction, let’s leap into the research.

The Good News

Those of you who already love vegetables and fruits, you are well positioned for a long and healthy life. A new study shows that we need to uptake our fresh produce intake from five (as originally thought) to 10 fruits and veggies a day.

The study completed by Imperial College London demonstrates that such a diet can lead to “24% reduced risk of heart disease, a 33% reduced risk of stroke, a 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13% reduced risk of total cancer, and a 31% reduction in premature deaths.” Wow…that’s a handful!

So what does 10 portions, or 800 g, of fruit and veggie intake look like? Here’s a nice visual for you by The Guardian. This article also mentions that some fruits and veggies are better at increasing certain health factors than others.

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-1

Specifically: “Apples and pears, citrus fruits, salads and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and chicory, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower were found to be best at preventing heart disease and stroke”.

Those who worry about cancer risks (which is very understandable, as any symptom search on Google will likely suggest possibilities of cancer), you can focus on “green vegetables (beans), yellow and orange vegetables (peppers and carrots), and cruciferous vegetables”.

Unfortunately, these benefits are mainly found when biting into real food, and less so through supplements and other pills. So those who are short on time, consider replacing your breakfast with a green smoothie (or if that’s not filling enough), at least try to make that your first drink of the day, before switching to coffee (or anything else that strikes your fancy).

 
The Bad News

Now, onto the bad news. Another study, completed by a researcher from Harvard University, demonstrated that because food makes up the building blocks of our cells, “eating older organisms (or food) – which have more molecular damage themselves- might cause an animal to age faster than one that eats younger organisms with less molecular damage”.

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-2
Specifically, “the old diet shortened lifespan by 18% in yeast and 13% in flies. In the mice, the old diet shortened lifespan by 13% in female mice, but there was no significant effect among males”, (lucky males!).

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-3

But as these experiments were done on animals, (not humans), we do not know exactly what effect this would have on humans, so let’s not jump the gun, but, let’s think a bit more about what we put into our mouths (and subsequently our bodies). And if you are unsure whether the food is safe to eat, please use your smell and visual senses before tossing aging produce into the bin.

My Conclusion 

It’s time we see food as more than something we consume to quiet our hunger (the sounds and feelings of an empty stomach are real). And let’s not just see it as a source of energy and fuel. Instead, let’s see food as a living and breathing ‘thing’ that interacts with our body, provides materials for our building blocks, and sends instructions to our brain.

“Food contains methyl groups (a carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms (CH3)) capable of methylating (silencing) genes, [which] brought into focus the capability of food to profoundly affect disease risk as well phennotypal expression. If folate, B12, or Betaine– 3common food components — can literally ‘shut off’ gene expression with high specificity, food becomes a powerful information vector. One which may actually supervene over the DNA within our body by determining which sequences find expression”.

Phew, that’s a lot of scientific terms and chemistry in one paragraph, but the bottom line is this: food not only gives you fuel, or activates your taste buds (which in itself is lovely), but it is a very powerful tool, one that can determine your health and longevity.

This means that when you are hungry and looking for something to eat, what you reach for will not just satisfy your hunger, it will also determine your near future. Therefore, we should consider the idea of ‘real food’ vs. ‘food like’ items. Things that have been processed, filled with chemicals and created in a lab (mainly junk food). These foods not only lead to obesity, but they also wreak havoc on your health and beauty.

The best example of this are the Nenets and Khanty tribes in northern Siberia who now have cases of obesity thanks to the introduction of instant noodles, pasta, bread and sugar.

saynotofoodwaste-graphics-fruits-health-diet-sustainable-5
And since not many of us live on a farm (or even close to one), and definitely don’t have time or money to go shopping at farmers markets (and those who do sometimes lack the time to cook what they haul until it’s on the verge of decomposing in the fridge or shelf),  I would like to urge all of us to think more about frozen food!

Frozen foods can have as much nutritional value (if not more) as their fresh counterparts. How? Well, they are packaged at the peak of their ripeness (so all the good vitamins stay where they are). Also, as they are frozen, they can be the quick and easy go to option for those short on time and money (admit it, our lives are stressful and hectic). On top of all that, as our years continually get warmer, keeping your food in the freezer can ensure that it stays crisp and delicious, without going to waste.

Here’s a nice video to summarize the above paragraph:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=99&v=zjsOOT347cA


Final Words

I hope this post widens your understanding of food, and peaks your interest in seeing fruits and veggies as more than a ‘side dish’ around the protein on your plate. Hopefully, they can slowly become the staple of your diet, the one that helps you live a healthy life.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please share them below.

Happy eating friends!
Hokuma 

Ovtene: This is their story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Ovtene is a packaging technology company that was inspired by the protection provided by an eggshell, which extends the shelf life of food products while maintaining their sensory characteristics and freshness.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-1

2. How long have you been in business? 

Ovtene products were launched in Italy in 2008, and extended their reach into most of Europe by 2015. These products became available in North America in 2016. 

3. Why did you decide to start the company?

In 2005, Alberto Tomasini was troubled by how swiftly certain foods became less palatable, dried out, deteriorated, and eventually became inedible. Inspired by the functions of the egg he began researching at the University of Udine Food Sciences in Italy, and eventually developed the material known as Ovtene. This material has the capacity to keep nearly any perishable food item fresh for much longer by retarding bacterial and mold growth.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-3

After being highly successful in Italy, the product moved into other European countries for grocery and food production packaging. In 2012, we began thinking of North America, the next largest producer of fine foods and its consumption. In 2016, after much positive exploratory research of the North American market, the FDA approved the product, at which point we launched six of our products into the grocery and food procure markets in the USA.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

Providing a sensible alternative to paper and plastic packaging, that extend the shelf life naturally with a much lower environmental footprint. Ovtene utilizes 60% less plastic than traditional packaging and neither water nor trees are consumed in its construction.

For a bit more information, take a look at their feature on Deli Market TVsaynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-4

5. How do you measure success?

Initially we look for successful independent testing evaluations followed by positive customer feedback and retention. When our grocery accounts customers begin asking for Ovtene by name and when food producers tell us that their products get to market fresher than before, we know we are onto something.

The next level of success is measured by actual sales and penetration into the many other uses of Ovtene. As well as, when the end user realizes the nutritional value of color, smell and taste of their food that is preserved with our product, unlike any other packaging.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

We learned from food producers and customers that Ovtene can keep products fresh that we hadn’t even thought to test before, such as citrus, floral and herbs. We also learned that Ovtene could be used to overcome the Van der Waals forces of clumping in powders when packaged. Cheese producers we discovered use Ovtene in the aging process as well as the final packaging for market. We also learned that many opportunities exist from Ovtene as it can be placed into stiff containers. In addition, we learned that OTR or the oxygen transmission rate was perfect for packaging fish as recommended by the FDA.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-5

The pouches are more popular in the US than in Europe. And people like to see the product, so windows need to be an option in many packaging applications. Most of all, people like to do what is easiest and change is difficult, and is viewed as a personal risk for users to initiate. But, they implement the product if they see that significant savings can be attained.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-6

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a sustainable food company?

With great products comes the adrenaline of trying to do too much all at once. Stay focused and tackle the markets that you know work. The rest will fall into place. FDA and USDA approvals were important recognitions, but were an extensive process. 

8. What’s next? Anything else you want to add?

Thermoforming and injection molding, and the introduction of the next generation of Ovtene, which we call OvteneActive. EU patents are approved for this even more protective form of Ovtene.

We believe that Ovtene packaging will increase the shelf life throughout the production and distribution chain. Ovtene can help bring fresh food to under served communities and decrease food waste due to spoilage. Ovtene can decrease the risk of bacterial contamination in food and beyond.

saynotofoodwaste-ovtene-cheese-fresh-nofoodwaste-7

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Appetizer: Fresh Ccup Carpaccio, cooked in lemon, pepper and olive oil.
Dinner: Barramundi, Australian Sea Bass, grilled plain served with a Sicilian Caponata.
Dessert: Almond Biscotti and Vin Santo (aged 10 or more years).

Salvatore Giglia, representative of Ovtene in North America

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

Wonky is a new juice brand that lives by the motto ‘give wonky fruit a chance’. We aim to be the most sustainable juice brand in Europe.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

It has been almost two years now, since we became entrepreneurs. Wonky Drinks start-up idea was developed by the University of South Wales students, along with co-founders Karina Sudenyte and Maciek Kacprzyk.

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-5

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

Maciek had huge interest in business since he was fifteen. His business ventures started from stock trading, these were the first steps when he began developing business skills. However, throughout his educational development he decided to follow a career in Law instead.

Now, after accomplishing my studies, I ditched my law career for a healthy food start-up called Wonky Drinks, with absolutely no regret. I am passionate about the food industry and positive causes for the environment. Of course, starting your own business as an entrepreneur is a lifestyle change. It is hard work, requires a lot of commitment and learning, but what is really important is that I converted my passions into my own business and met a second co-founder, Karina, with whom I linked over a great love for food, who helps to revive my ideas.

P.S. “She is a geek of sustainability! We both enjoy and are proud to be young entrepreneurs”. – Maciek Kacprzyk (Co-founder of Wonky)

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-3

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The first breakthrough occurred during our samplings at the Universities, where we managed to outsell Innocent drinks 11 to 1 at USW, and Bensons juices 8 to 1 in the BS managed canteens. These great results validated that our idea was not at all impossible! It gave us confidence and courage to believe in our concept and pursue impossible goals.

5. How do you measure success?

I consider all obstacles as positive challenge for improvement and success. Any business, sooner or later, is confronted with all kinds of problems, but it is natural, just like in life! A famous philosopher once said: “The man who has no more problems to solve, is out of the game.” This phrase should help you mentally in the approach to solving business problems with courage and give you a positive perception to succeed in your business venture.

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-1

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the _(retail)_ industry/get involved in _(entrepeneurial)_ work & start a _(company)_?

Believing in your idea is extremely important when you start your own business. Are you ready to have your own business? It is important to take into consideration every difficulty that is associated when becoming a new entrepreneur. You must be ready to devote yourself to the work, face new challenges and simply live the idea and breathe it – if so, then this is when you are ready to go.

8. What’s next?

Our key challenge at the moment is to convince at least 2 medium sized distributors that it is smart idea to give Wonky a chance. What is more our aim is to introduce Wonky drinks to 200 catering venues within two years time. Currently we have launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £13,000. Our mission is to raise some funding to save 300 tones of wonky produce by April 2017, by implementing and making small bottled wonkies!

saynotofoodwaste-juice-healthy-entrepreneur-wonky-ugly-fruits-sustainable-6

9. Anything else you want to add?

If you like to give Wonky a chance, then click here to support this project. For more information visit www.wonkydrinks.co.uk or say hello at hello@wonkydrinks.co.uk

10. Fun question: What was the best meal you ate this week? 

We spent our lunch last week at the Tiny Leaf London – organic, zerowaste, vegetarian restaurant. Our choice was Tartine du Jour – it was a large slice of toasted bread covered with roasted tomato, pepper and courgette. Classic flavour combination and simply delicious!

This is their story

1.    Summarize your project/business in one sentence. 

The Urban Worm harnesses the power of vermicomposting, utilizing the humble earthworm to provide solutions in sustainable waste management and sustainable agriculture.


2. How long have you been in business/running your project?
 

Since December 2013 after being selected for the Women in Social and Environmental Enterprise program (WISEE) which provided me with a small start up grant and business model support.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-1

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

After completing my MA studies in Human Security and Environmental Change, specializing in Urban Food Security and Urban Agriculture I had to make the decision to either leave my native city (Nottingham) to find employment in my field or create an opportunity for myself and for my city, so The Urban Worm began.

Everybody of course has to eat and  building sustainable food systems will be at the heart of our ability to thrive in the face of adversity. Climate change, desertification and natural resource depletion are undermining global food security and the current corporate driven, energy intensive, unjust and chemical ridden model is neither sustainable or successfully meeting the nutritional needs of the world. We need to empower a different model that is local, organic and community driven and vermiculture provides the foundations for this movement by producing a superior organic fertilizer and compost. Worm castings are teeming with beneficial microbes essential for healthy plant growth and disease suppression with exceptional water holding capacity, perfect for urban gardens and extreme weather events which we are experiencing more of as a consequence of climate change.  The process of vermicomposting not only provides a high value by product, but the process is an efficient, low tech and cost effective system for a sustainable management of organic waste, as opposed to diverting the waste to landfill which further contribute to climate change as gases emitted from food waste are 31 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

By managing our waste at home we can make a positive contribution to building the foundations for sustainable societies and vermicomposting can be done on a very small scale, even if you live in a flat you can keep worms in your cupboard, the process is odorless and perfect for indoors.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-4


4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?
 

Having the opportunity to travel to learn has by far been my greatest achievement. I was awarded the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT)  travel Fellowship to research vermiculture in the USA and Cuba, and this opportunity to learn has been inspiring and is wonderful to make international connections with like minded people, building a wider community of vermicomposting enthusiasts, sharing knowledge and passion. As I  I write this I am in New York preparing for the next Cuban leg of my research. Whilst traveling the west coast I saw vermicomposting in prisons, zoos, schools, colleges, universities as well as successful businesses,  it has been incredibly inspiring and presents a blueprint for developing institutional sustainable organic waste management in the UK. This will be the next achievement, so watch this space. From Cuba the learning will be vast as Cuba is considered to be the global leader in vermicomposting as after the breakdown of the soviet union they lost 80 % of their imports of synthetic fertilizers over night and so a sustainable alternative was called for, and the organic movement began, with worms.


5. How do you measure success?

Tricky one! I guess on a personal level success is to receive love, which I never feel in short supply of! On a professional level success is having influence to make positive change, locally and globally.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-2

6. What have you learned in the process? 

That  worms  definitely don’t like too many apples- I had a massacre situation a few years ago after a community apple pressing day. Sad, sad day, too much acid, a lesson learned the hard way.


7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the worm farming industry or  simply starting a wormery at home.

Just do it, the earth needs you.  We need more worm farmers, rural and urban and the process is very easy and can be set up for a very small cost. If not for profit we need to produce as much ‘black gold’ aka worm castings as we possibly can, even if we live in an apartment we can all make a positive contribution.  What greater contribution to the world can we make but to make earth again? Even if you don’t have a garden, a gardener or community garden would be very grateful for your gift. There is an abundance of information on the internet on how to get started and I have written a worm care guide available for download for free from our website www.theurbanworm.co.uk

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-3


8. What’s next?
 

On return from my WCMT travels, besides catching up with friends and family, and checking up on my worm culture, I will be working on a project that introduces vermicomposting into prisons in the UK. Institutions need to play a key role in practicing sustainable waste management and the USA has some incredibly successful models, notably Monroe Correctional Facility  in Washington.


9. Anything else you want to add?
 

Feed the worms, feed the soil, and feed the soul.

saynotofoodwaste-urbanworm-uk-usa-compost-garden-organic-earth-planet-sustainable-healthy-6

10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Whilst visiting my family in New Jersey we went to a delicious Italian restaurant in Glen Rock called Rocca, all local and organic produce. I had a bruschetta to start and spinach gnocchi for my main, perfect!

This is their story

1. Summarize your project/business in one sentence.

MealFlour is an environmentally sustainable social enterprise that provides training to build mealworm farms, raise mealworms, and turn them into protein-rich flour that can be incorporated in local staple foods or sold to bakeries and markets.

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

We (Elizabeth Frank, Gabrielle Wimer, and Joyce Lu) have been working on the idea of MealFlour since December of 2015. In the summer of 2016, we began our pilot in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (also known as Xela). We are based in Xela, but we work with the communities on the outskirts of the city; our first community is Candelaria.

pic3

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

MealFlour started out as a thought experiment. We had all worked in community and global health and wished that more programs and social enterprises would take a holistic approach to improving health. We hoped MealFlour, with its emphasis on not only improving nutrition, but also on raising income and reducing waste, would be a more well-rounded approach to improving well-being. After we entered a few social enterprise competitions, earned enough seed funding, and confirmed local interest at our pilot site community, we realized that this thought experiment could actually become a reality, so we went for it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

One of our biggest concerns was finding out where to start.  Insects are eaten in 80% of countries around the world, including parts of Guatemala, but raising mealworms in this way is something new. When we pitched the concept to the group of women from a community in Candelaria and gave them samples of the mealworm products, they were excited to learn more and wanted to try out farming themselves.

5. How do you measure success?

Each week we discuss MealFlour’s progress with the farmers to receive their continuous feedback. In order to improve the program as it evolves, we track how many families are farming mealworms, how often they are eating mealworm flour, who in the family eats mealworm flour, open ended questions about attitudes towards mealworm farming and mealworm flour, and ease of uptake of the program. Success means that the women are still farming mealworms long after we have left, so it is important that we are constantly collaborating with farmers to build a business model that works for them.

It is also important to us that the flour they are producing is both improving nutrition in communities and creating new sources of income for the farmers (mostly women with young children). To measure this, we will be analyzing anthropometric data, conducting regular focus groups and surveys, and monitoring flour production and income.

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-11-52-51-pm

6. What have you learned in the process?

Don’t be afraid to ‘make the ask’. This is advice we have gotten from a few different people along the way and (most of the time) it has really paid off – you’d be surprised how many people agree and want to help you.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (nutrition) industry/get involved in (global public health) work/start a (social enterprise)?

Global health is about getting an intimate understanding of the local context, integrating insights and developments from around the world, and continuing to learn from communities. We chose Guatemala because Joyce worked there for three months in 2015 and got to know the community well. It was important to us that we didn’t integrate into the community without having a close relationship with them first. We also think carefully about each step moving forward with MealFlour. We have a plan and timeline for what we hope to achieve each month, but we are also really flexible to the changes that inevitably come with listening to what the community wants and determining what actually works in practice.

pic4

8. What’s next?

Next is where the real work begins! We spent almost a year laying groundwork, doing research, optimizing the farming technology, raising money, and developing partnerships. Now, starting October 2016, we will begin our first official classes on farming and begin to put everything we’ve been planning into practice.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and check out our website and sign up for newsletter for more information!

Also, while MealFlour is working in the western highlands of Guatemala, we are really part of a larger, global movement towards sustainable agriculture  and edible insects. If you want to build your own farm at home and make delicious protein packed treats, find out how on our ‘DIY‘ page.

10. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

Homemade chapati bread and macaroons, both made with mealworm flour from mealworms taken straight from our farm and grown by co-founder Gabrielle Wimer!

pic2

This is their story

1. “Food Is…”

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.1
All photos belong to Chris King. Founder of Food Is...

A documentary project which aims to engage people on the subject of avoidable food waste – the issue, the consequences and the solutions. 

2. How long have you been in business/running your project?

The project started in September 2013, when I documented activities of an organisation called FoodCycle in London. From there I explored other initiatives, and then started visiting farms across the UK with the Gleaning Network, to explore farm-level food waste.

3. Why did you decide to start the company/project?

I’ve been involved in grassroots activism around environmental and social justice issues in some capacity for many years. When I lived in Amsterdam in the late 90s/early 00s, I also used to gather food to live off that would otherwise go to waste at a local market. So I’ve been conscious of the issue and the impact of waste, including food waste, for some time.

I’m also curious about everything, and the nature of the issue of food waste appealed to me on many levels, for if we impact positively on food waste we impact positively on so many of the issues of our time – soil degradation, climate change, the power and impact of the biotechs, food security, water security, deforestation and more.

When I started the project there was very little media attention, and I wanted to do what I could to raise awareness about the issue, and to provide exposure to those people and organizations who proactively do something to reduce the amount of edible food waste. 

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Completely out of the blue I was invited to give a lecture at the NYU campus in Florence, Italy last year. When I was walking up the tree-lined track to Villa La Pietra, gazing at the amazing views and the olive groves, listening to the professor who invited me talk about all the people who stayed and lectured at the campus, I felt more than a little overwhelmed!

Thankfully the lecture was well received, and the whole experience was amazing. You can see the lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hpAlp6SRhc

5. How do you measure success?

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.2In relation to my project the key measure of success would be the number of people who engage on some level with the work I produce. Unfortunately, this isn’t something I can really measure effectively. What I can measure is the size of my audience, and the rate at which it is growing. By constantly working on refining the work I produce – as well as exploring different formats such as short documentary films and podcasts – I hope to continually increase my audience. I am constantly refining what I produce to make it more engaging and more accessible, with the aim of maximising the potential for people to be inspired to take some sort of positive action – no matter how small.

Ultimately if I were to inspire just one person to take action, I would consider my project a success…and I think I have done exactly.

6. What have you learned in the process?

Where do I begin?! There’s so much I learned about so many things – such is the nature of documenting a complex, multi-layered issue like food waste! But one of the most positive and heartening things is that there are a lot of good, ordinary – I mean that in a positive way, and a thing to celebrate – people doing a lot of good things.

I already knew this generally speaking, but food waste, like so many issues, has some go-to people that get a huge amount of the attention – their work and their words are continually celebrated in the media, and tend to mould the public’s perception of an issue. This is great for nurturing an awareness of the issue within the public consciousness, but it also results in the crowding out of the voices of the multitude of grassroots initiatives – all of which deserve more attention than they currently receive.

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.3There are so many grassroots initiatives doing something related to food waste, of all shapes and sizes, both nationally and internationally – it’s a beautifully diverse ecosystem – and is growing at a fabulous rate. With edible food being a valuable resource, there are also many enterprising individuals tapping into its commercial value – many of which function as social enterprises, and so serving the wider community, not just their own interests.


Bearing witness to this gives me hope that, despite a lack of meaningful action at a government, retailer and manufacturer level, the momentum for positive, meaningful change will continue to grow from the grassroots up, and with time will come to influence the actions of majority of individuals and organisations within our societies – increasing pressure on all sectors to take action.

With that shift in awareness, habits and business practices will come a positive, knock-on effect on all the issues of our time – hence the reason why we need to nurture the grassroots initiatives as much as possible.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the (food) industry/get involved in (food) work/start a (organization)?

I’ve been exposed to a multitude of different organisations and initiatives – each with its own story, and its own way of functioning – but what they all have in common is the spark that ignited each and every one of them, which was an idea nurtured by one or two passionate, driven people. So if you have an idea, just get out there and make it happen – there are plenty of people who will support you, and help make it work – then continually refine what you do and what you offer.

8. What’s next?

saynotofoodwaste.waste.stop.foodis.chrisking.uk.activism.foodwaste.sustainability.4I am in the process of producing the first in a series of short documentary films on the many layers of food waste – ways of reducing it, and the various ways of managing it. The first will be on the date labelling of food – best before and use by dates – and will hopefully be completed by the end of the year.

I want to connect with as wide an audience as possible, and inspire them to take action, and so will continue to refine what I produce, and continue to explore all the possible means and ways of achieving that.

9. Fun question: what was the best meal you ate this week?

The breakfast I shared with my partner before she went off to Glastonbury for a few days. It was just a big bowl of porridge, but every meal I get to share with her is special to me.

10. To add:

If there is one issue you get behind, make it food waste – it impacts on all the issues of our time, and we are all part of the problem, but also part of the solution.

If you would like to follow my own exploration of the issue, then connect with my via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and my newsletter. And if you would like to access new and upcoming content beyond what’s on the website, then subscribe to my iTunes channel and YouTube Channel.

——
Many thanks to Chris King for sharing his story, his talent and his experiences!
We hope you enjoyed it.

All the best,
Hokuma 

Bite Sized Wisdom: A caramelized life

When standing in the kitchen, chopping onions and fighting back tears, it’s hard to imagine that this layered vegetable can be sweet. Yet, throw some into a pan with olive oil on low heat and you’ll witness magic in action.

The slow process of heating the onion breaks down its cell walls making them softer and sweeter. This process is called ‘pyrolysis’ and goes something like this:

  1. Heat breaks down chemical compounds of the cooked food. Since all food contains sugar, the heat breaks it down into smaller units leading to browning and sweetening.
  2. All living things, including plants, break down sugar for energy. Your average medium-sized onion contains 9 grams of sugar.
  3. Sugars in plants and our body can be found in various pairs. The cooking process breaks the pairs down from polysaccharides (couple) into monosaccharides (single).
  4. Since much of the cell structure is made up of starches, which are polysaccharides, the slow cooking process breaks down the wall structures of cells, releasing sugar, which then sweetness the food and softness its texture.

If you apply this sound logic to a bigger organism, like humans, this idea can teach us that in life “patience is a virtue”.

The famous Sufi poet, Rumi once used a chickpea metaphor to describe his enlightened life:

“The whole of my life
is summed up in these three phrases:
I used to be raw
Then I was cooked
Now,
I am on fire.”

Onions: red, brown, whole, peeled, sliced, rings.The thing about being cooked is that life makes you sweet, because you learn to handle the setbacks of life with an open heart and mind. And those who come in contact with you can learn this skill and apply it in their wn life.

Today our everyday lives are rushing past us at the speed of light. There is so much to accomplish, so much to do, so much to see that life eventually becomes a frenzy, filled with anxiety, demands and needs. By taking a slower approach and letting ourselves simmer in time it takes to accomplish goals will help us softly approach hardships.

Something simple as doing 10 minutes of yoga or meditation in the morning can make all the difference. And taking baby steps towards any big goal will yield progress and satisfaction. After all, what’s the point of rushing through life, shouldn’t it be enjoyed?

Here’s to caramelizing our onions in the kitchen and our lives outside of it.

Cheers!
Hokuma

Bite sized wisdom: forgetting to breathe

Before our ancestors left footprints on the ground, they surfed currents of our oceans. In the deep blue darkness they breathed, lived and thrived. Little did they know that millions of years later their predecessors will destroy their homes.

How exactly? A study published in the Global Biogeochemical Cycles detected that by 2030 the worlds oceans will experience a loss in oxygen. This means that fish stocks will die as it gets harder to breathe. Certain parts of the oceans will become barren.

The scary part is that it’s nothing new. We know that 250 million years ago, 90% of Earth’s species were killed in the ‘Great Dying‘. Those events were linked to low levels of oxygen in oceans. While the Earth did recover, it took an entire five million years for oxygen levels to be replenished.

Unfortunately, our love for growth is causing climate change and global warming. While we develop our shores, we also kill forests, raise temperatures and utilize resources like we won’t need them tomorrow.

As Hermes Trismegistus once said “As above, so below”. If our oceans are a mirror, then they’re definitely reflecting our ugliness. Modern civilization is wrecking havoc on Earth. Our hunger for more raises temperatures and leads to mass extinctions.

deepocean.oxygen.breathe.evolution.nature.destruction.change.saynotofoodwaste.2After millions of years of evolution, a recovery and new beginnings, we are back to where we started – on the verge of a new ‘Great Dying’. Can these findings be a call to action or are we too far gone to care?

Regardless, we must try to reverse the course of history. However small the action or the change, we need to be headed in that direction. Whether it means going vegetarian for a month, buying locally grown or organic, starting somewhere is a good idea.

Since no man is an island, having a team around you to inspire and motivate might help. For me, that team is made of like-minded individuals. Entrepreneurs, doers, appreciators of simplicity, and believers in the magic of nature. These individuals understand that Earth is our home. Not just the shores, but also the oceans. Though we don’t live in the waters anymore, we still need them.

We need to be realistic, but should stay optimistic. To help change our oceans, we must start by improving things on land: planting more vegetation and lowering CO2 emissions. Wasting less food and water, and keeping our soils rich in nutrients to support growth.

If you have tips to share, please do. We need a lot of people who care!
In the meantime, just keep swimming, just keep breathing.

Cheers to finding our inner Nemo!
Hokuma

Straight from the Source – Reflections on Sustainable Food

What is a sustainable food system? 

Often sustainable food systems and local food systems are considered to be the same thing. They’re not. The journey food takes from farm to table is complex and requires coordination at every scale, from local to global.

Local food has its place. There are programs in Kenya, written up by Rockefeller Foundation, that describe the role local food growing plays in reducing local unemployment and boosting secure access to food. There are great stories of community gardens in cities around the world that provide healthy fruits and veg for local residents. There are reams of unused land in cities slated for development, somewhere in the distant future, which could be used for raised bed gardens to grow local food at no detriment to the planned commercial projects. These opportunities need to be recognized and acted on.

On the other hand, there are returns to “economies of scale” that it make it cheaper, and sometimes more energy efficient, to process a large amount of things in one place. That might mean that it is more resource efficient to grow things far away from a city than it would be for everyone to grow their own.

The trend towards economies of scale in American-agriculture-gone-global have led to people feeling completely estranged from their food. And the “just-in-time” supply chain management principles that have been applied to food supply mean that most cities have very little storage of fresh food. Should there be a large scale disruption to the supply chain – such as what happened in New York City during Hurricane Sandy– cities can easily be left without food.

saynotofoodwaste.supplychain.food.sustainable.green.future.nowaste.2More research is needed to identify and publicize opportunities for efficient local food growth. At the same time, we need to shed light on the supply chains that bring us food from abroad and alerts us to vulnerabilities in those supply chains.

Where does our food come from? 

Most of the time, this is a question that many people can’t answer. But the answer matters, and may be a matter of life and death. The Guardian and other news sources uncovered that slave labor was used to ruthlessly trawl the oceans to provide shrimp feed, devastating both the people and the environment involved. We are forced to remember that every dollar is a vote, and our buying decisions affect what type of world we live in.

A company called Provenance is developing a methodology that companies could use to keep auditable records of their supply chains, and communicate with the public who has touched their products on their way to market. This will help us understand the global implications of the cheap food we enjoy, and give people agency in choosing which business practices they will support with their money.

On the local front is Caleb Harper, head of MIT’s Open Agriculture movement, who proposes that we open-source our knowledge of how to grow food. If his food computers are built and distributed through the country, there is the potential to overhaul our way of educating young people about where food comes from and what factors help it to thrive.

And of course no discussion of food sustainability is complete without a serious discussion of how we deal with food waste. Organizations such as the Food Recovery Network and Imperfect Produce are working to connect food that would go to waste with hungry people. It only makes sense.

Choose with your Chompers

These are important ideas to have on the table. The way forward is not clear, but we can each play our part by thinking and talking about the supply chain of our food. Keep an eye out for innovative ideas like the Food Recovery Network and support them when you can. And think twice about why your chicken is so cheap.

By Nathan Suberi