Hungry Harvest: This is Their Story

1. Summarize your organization in one sentence.

We believe that no food should go to waste and that no person should go hungry. That’s why we source, hand pack, and securely deliver delicious boxes of recovered produce on a weekly and bi-weekly basis. For every delivery, we subsidize 2 lbs of produce for families living in food deserts through our produce in SNAP sites.

2. How long have you been running your organization?

We founded Hungry Harvest in 2014 on the University of Maryland campus.

3. Why did you decide to start the organization?

I’ve always believed that through social entrepreneurship, we can exact swift systemic change to some of the biggest problems our world faces with regard to food justice.  I started this company with the belief that food is a right, not a privilege, and work daily to increase access to fresh produce to those in need.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

This year we surpassed 3 million pounds of food recovered and 500k pounds more donated.  You can’t put a price, or a TV show appearance, or an award on the look on people’s faces when you hand them a full box of fresh produce and know that on that day, they will not be hungry because of your team’s work.

5. How do you measure success?

Every few months we anonymously survey our team to take a pulse on happiness in the work they are doing and belief that we are authentically serving the company mission.  My team is at a 9.2 overall satisfaction rating, which grew .02 from the last poll; we’ve never been under 9.  Our customer ratings are in the 9’s as well, and our number one growth metric is in friend referrals: people get our product, love it, believe in us, and want to share it with their community.  That’s authentic success. That’s how I know we’re doing the right thing.

6. What have you learned in the process?

To be flexible and listen.  Our direction is always toward ending food deserts and bringing about food justice for all.  It’s the way we listen to customer and team feedback to make better choices every day that keeps us moving forward.

7. What advice would you give to someone trying to get involved in food recovery?

Do it. The systemic issues in the food industry are vast and complicated.  It’s going to take a myriad of solutions to truly fix the problem of food waste, hunger, fair compensation for farmers, and more efficient logistics from farm to fork.  We are one solution, but I look forward to more people joining this cause and bringing new ideas and technologies to fill in the gaps toward a more whole solution.

8. What’s next?

Expansion & wholesale.  We are launching our Miami office shortly, with plans to add 3 more cities by year’s end on the East Coast. Through our wholesale channels, we are able to rescue and serve more broadly across the states to help connect food to consumption.

9. Anything else you want to add?

We are indebted to our subscribers, and to our partners.  None of this would be possible without a community of people who truly believe in food justice, and help us each day to better our product, and our service. Thank you doesn’t begin to cover the appreciation the team and I feel for your support.

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

Oh man, that’s a tough call! We are always sampling new produce and recipes posted by our recipe club, so many good things to choose – this week in particular I’d have to say the Asian Pear, Arugula & Feta pizza one of our ambassadors made up. There are few things better than a fresh made pizza on a beautiful sunny day.

Evan Lutz, CEO and co-founder of Hungry Harvest

Kitchens for Good: This is Their Story

1. Summarize your organization in one sentence.

We are a nonprofit social enterprise whose mission it is to fight poverty, hunger, and food waste.

2. How long have you been running your enterprise?

I started Kitchens For Good in March 2013, and we got our first kitchen in September of 2015.

3. Why did you decide to start the organization?

I had for far too many years been appalled at the amount of food waste in the Hospitality Industry where I had spent most of my working career.  I could not reconcile that enormous food waste(we send to landfill nearly 40% of everything we grow in America) with the high number of hungry people in America.  One in 5 Americans is food insecure.  That fact should be inconceivable in America, let alone our reality.  What really made me leave my comfortable, well-paying job started with conversations with my then 10 year old son.  During our drives to school in the morning we talked about his new school, his thoughts about High School in the near future, and what college and life might look like beyond that.  We talked a lot about the concept of Right Livelihood…that what you do for a living should give back more to your community than it takes away.  I came to a point where I had to live it and not just talk about it.

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

The team that we have put together at KFG.  We have a group of absolute rock stars.  They continue every day to challenge me and make me better.

5. How do you measure success?

The number of lives changed by the graduates of our programs.  Let me be perfectly clear that what we do at KFG is to provide an opportunity.  Our students are the ones doing the hard work to succeed.

6. What have you learned in the process?

It has reinforced for me the saying that “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  What we do is only possible because of the team we have.

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

Find the revenue first.  You cannot have a positive impact on your community unless your model and your organization are sustainable.

8. What’s next?

We are in the process of acquiring another facility so that we can expand our programs and our social enterprise.  Our intention had always been to scale to the point where we could have a substantial impact.

9. Anything else you want to add?

Don’t wait, just go for it.  The world is waiting for you to make a difference.

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

I’m an opportunistic shopper.  This week my local organic market had some amazing garlic sausages on sale.  I grilled them, roasted some Yukon Gold potatoes, and made an arugula salad with dressing made with extra mustard to compliment the sausages.

Chuck Samuelson, founder/president of Kitchens for Good

Learning to Love Microbes

Fermentation. The ideas that this word brings to mind aren’t necessarily the most pleasant: rot, mysteriously bubbling liquids, putrid stench, sourness. When my professor told us that we would be fermenting our own vegetables and eating them, one of my classmates was absolutely horrified by the thought. To ferment is to decay, to decompose, to die – surely we shouldn’t eat spoiled food!

But fermented food isn’t spoiled: it’s pre-digested. Specifically, as Michael Pollan describes it in his book Cooked (now a four-part Netflix series), “To ferment food is to predigest it, in effect, breaking long chains of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates our bodies might not be able to make good use of into simpler, safer compounds that they can.” In the simplest terms, fermenting is cooking without heat.

Beer, wine, cheese, yogurt, sourdough bread, miso paste, fish sauce, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, tempeh, and even chocolate are all common examples of fermented foods. Nonetheless, describing them as what they are, fermented, still makes some people’s skin crawl. In the hyper-sterilized culture of westernized society, the process of encouraging bacterial growth sounds unsafe if not flat-out disgusting. We trust the manufactured versions of these products to be sanitized by industrial food producers to meet government standards to keep us safe. On the flipside, we no longer trust the process of fermentation itself, which has nothing to do with the most notorious foodborne threats of salmonella, listeria, and E coli. “Bacteria” have just been given a connotation of disease and death, such that we perceive them as menaces to be eradicated rather than recognizing their beneficial, natural role in our bodies.

Pollan writes beautifully and thoroughly about how detrimental processing and pasteurization have been to our microbiome, the communities of bacteria thriving in our bodies. Basically, we have deprived our bodily systems of a lot of beneficial microorganisms that humans have historically received from fermented and other foods. The combination of a) a lack of gut bacteria and b) the nutritional imbalance of our diets, heavy in fats and carbohydrates and low in fiber, has been linked to the rising prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders and possibly other autoimmune diseases.

Hold on – didn’t I write a post about the dangers of raw milk just two years ago? “Others still believe [raw milk] to be a good source of healthy bacteria – but, really, it is safer to look for probiotic dairy products, which have been pasteurized and then had beneficial bacteria added to them.” I look back on that post now and laugh at myself for having such blind faith in industrialization. The fact that manufacturers deliberately kill the naturally-occurring bacteria in our foods only to reinject some of them with live cultures for the sake of boasting a “probiotic” label is ridiculous. Thousands of microorganisms are lost in the process, so the effect on our bodies is markedly different. For instance, many sources will tell you that kefir made from live grains contains at least 35 strains of beneficial bacteria, yet store-bought versions boast a measly 12 active cultures.

Don’t get me wrong: pasteurization is extremely important to ensure the safety of mass-produced milk products. However, I highly recommend trying to incorporate unprocessed fermented foods to your diet, if you can find them. If you have access to organic produce, you can even try your hand at fermenting with recipes like this – it’s shockingly easy!

As Hokuma said in a recent post, let’s see food as a living and breathing ‘thing’ that interacts with our body.” I’d like to build on that: let’s see our insides as living things that interact with our food. It doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s the truth that gives us life.

Eva

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Food Recovery is Great, but far from Perfect

I’ve tried my fair share of seemingly-strange food combinations, but I have never thought to try combining tomatoes and chocolate in anything other than Mexican mole sauces. However, I read a story on NPR a couple weeks ago about how three Spanish chefs had created chocolate truffles with dried Nigerian tomatoes – and served them at the World Economic Forum, no less! The creations, “Bombom Kaduna,” were designed to raise awareness of the fact that 75% of Nigeria’s tomatoes are annually wasted.

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Professor Christopher Barrett of the Charles H. Dysons School of Applied Economics and Management was one of several people quoted in the article scoffing at the idea. One thing he took issue with, which I saw echoed in an op-ed in The Globe and Mail last week, is the concept of trying to use food waste to alleviate world hunger. As the latter article notes: “Hunger is what happens as a result of privation and poverty. Treating hunger through society’s waste compounds the indignity of hunger, and points us away from more permanent solutions.”

I wholeheartedly agree that food recovery is not the solution to hunger. These two articles do a good job discussing how poverty should be better addressed to combat hunger, but I also know that the problem of food waste warrants much more comprehensive strategies. First off, it seems pretty impossible to recover the over 1 billion tons of food that are “lost” every year. Secondly, most of the world’s food waste stems from so-called first world, such as the United States and European Union, while most of the world’s hungry people live in rural Asia and Africa. The logistics of transplanting the excess of one country to another isn’t feasible on a large enough scale to feed all those in need.

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That is not to say that there are not food insecure people in the first world or that food recovery is by any means a bad idea. Donating to soup kitchens and food banks is an excellent use of surplus, even if it isn’t a solution to hunger or its causes. However, there is a danger that food donors might not take any other steps to prevent waste. After all, what’s wrong with generating excess when it’s going to feed hungry people? Well, not only does it dehumanize the hungry by treating them as garbage bins; it also encourages a food system that promotes overabundance, thereby waste.

The best compromise, I believe, is one that my college practices. I am a student Food Recovery Network volunteer at the University of Rochester, and we freeze surplus from campus dining establishments to deliver to a local soup kitchen. Most importantly, we inventory the kinds of foods being donated so that the school can see what foods it can afford to cut back on. For instance, we now find ourselves donating far fewer bagels than we did four years ago, when they constituted the majority of our inventory, because the school has adjusted to the apparent lack of demand.

Food recovery is not the be-all, end-all solution to hunger or food waste. However, it’s a good step in the right direction and brings attention to these critical issues.

Eva

Repurposed Pod: This is Their Story

1.    Summarize your business in one sentence. 

Repurposed Pod hopes to disrupt the cocoa industry through new cacao crop innovations, advancing cacao agriculture and adding value back to the supply chain.

2. How long have you been in business? 

We started Repurposed Pod in October of 2014. We launched our first product (100% Cacao Juice) 2 years later October 2016.

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3. Why did you decide to start the company?

We have always been in the cocoa industry and spent many years trekking across the beautiful cacao farms. Traditionally, the farmers will hand pick a cacao pod off the tree, crack it open and you pop the cocoa beans in your mouth to taste the sweet fruit pulp which surrounds the bitter beans. It’s always been a highlight to our days on the farm. Some of this sweet fruit pulp is used in the fermentation step of the cocoa harvesting process. However, the rest is simply wasted. We realized we could bring to life this beautiful fruit to the U.S. market and by utilizing this wasted  sweet fruit, we could bring additional value to the cacao supply chain, and provide premiums to the farmers through increasing land utility. It was one of those magical “ah, ha” moments we will never forget..

4. What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

By reinventing the cacao crop’s 3,000 year old post harvest process. Repurposed Pod had the opportunity to provide a new perspective on “the fruit that brings you chocolate.” No longer is Cacao only the crop of cocoa beans, it is also the crop of cacao fruit juice.

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5. How do you measure success?

We measure success against our mission of advancing cacao agriculture and improving the livelihoods of cacao farming families. This is the ultimate success.

6. What have you learned in the process? 

Starting your own business is ONE BIG learning curve. In the beginning you wear every hat, you learn every role (even roles you may not excel in or roles your not comfortable with).

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

As you navigate the rough waters of a start up remember your mission You embarked on this journey for a purpose, a purpose to help make the world a better place. Remember your purpose and stay true to your mission every step of the way. Let it guide your decisions, let it lift you up when you reach obstacles (because you will!) and allow yourself to celebrate the successes along the way  (big and small).

View More: http://char-co.pass.us/repurpose-pod-jpegs

8. What’s next? 

We are constantly innovating and brewing new ideas. Let’s just say Cacao Juice is only the beginning for Repurposed Pod.

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

I love to cook healthy foods Monday I made this Thai Chicken with Spicy Peanut Sauce, it was amazing!!! You use peeled carrot as the noodles and sun butter for the “peanut sauce”.  

Kayla Weidner, founder of Repurposed Pod

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.

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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)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!