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

Nose to Tail Eating: Showing Appreciation and Preventing Waste

As my sister and I were strolling through a food and drink festival in Germany, we started talking about how weird it is that Westerners find it quite normal to eat some animals – pigs, cows, birds, sheep, deer, goats, fish – but not reptiles, insects, or mammals such as dogs or cats. This turned into a conversation about what parts of animals are most commonly eaten and what each of us would be willing to eat. Naturally, I ended up mentioning my support for nose-to-tail eating.

nosetail cutsNose-to-tail refers to the practice of eating as much of an animal as possible to minimize waste. Yes, that includes things like bones, genitalia, and heads. That may repulse some people, but the ethical implications are worth considering. If an animal is already going to die for the sole sake of human consumption, isn’t it only fair to use its body for all its worth, rather than cut out a few slabs and then dump the rest of the carcass? Not only is that a waste of a lot of potential food, but, in my opinion, it is extremely disrespectful to the animal.

In my experience, people typically prefer to eat animal flesh and fat over entrails and organs – known as offal in the culinary world – because that is what they have been raised to consider ‘acceptable’ meat. Of course, there are many logical reasons to be squeamish eating certain body parts. Mine is primarily a gastronomic concern: brains, eyeballs, and many other organs just seem like they would be a highly unpleasant texture to eat, regardless of their actual flavor. That might sound heartless, but it’s true. Hygiene can also be a large cause for worry when it comes to eating, say, bladders or kidneys, which have held bodily excretions. However, most people just find it gross or morally wrong to eat a creature’s hearts, brains, or eyes; perhaps because they represent the animal’s soul or the windows thereto.

meat grocery storeFor a subsistence farmer, I think trying to eat nose to tail would be a pretty logical decision solely for the economic reason of making the most of what you have. For the average grocery store shopper, though, it just depends on your personal comfort zone. Since we buy individual cuts of meat, not whole animals, we can afford to be selective. Still, as more butchers and chefs embrace the nose-to-tail idea to encourage sustainability, it is worth experimenting a little. After all, fewer animals would have to be killed if people were willing to substitute some traditional cuts of meat in their weekly diets with less-conventional parts. As a starting point for the inexperienced, oxtail, beef cheek, and pig’s ears are probably easier to swallow than, say, haggis, a traditional Scottish entrée that involves stuffing a sheep’s stomach with a mixture of offal, oatmeal, and suet, or Rocky Mountain Oysters, which, despite the name, consist of deep fried cattle or sheep testicles.

meat funnyDue to our society’s obsession with convenience, I doubt that buying a whole or half of an entire animal for food will ever be the norm. It requires a lot of time and culinary know-how to be able to prepare all the different kinds of flesh and offal that a beast has to offer. Still, hopefully the nose-to-tail movement will keep gaining ground and bringing us closer to a point where as little as possible from each animal is wasted.


PS: here is an excellent segment on meat and the nose-to-tail movement from National Public Radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show.

Food Waste Back On The Menu 

You know that a movement is gaining traction when the government decides to get involved in the action. And you know this movement is going global when not just one or two, but a few countries worldwide take steps to curb their unnecessary food loss. 

For a long time USA was at the forefront of the fight, approving legislation that increased incentive for food donations. Bill Clinton signed the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act into law in 1996. took another few years before the topic picked up heat with the publication of the now famous study by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The “Global Food – Waste Not, Want Not” study highlighted that 50% of grown food is thrown away.

This inspired a wave of new actions and strengthened the existing ones. Authors, chefs,  politicians, students and even average citizens decided to volunteer their time to help ignite a movement. And they did! 

Of course, it was the French who really dressed the movement up in style. They made Disco Soupes a hit all over France (we even brought it to DC!), and it inspired a group of entrepreneurs to rally behind a more sustainable food system.

What started as a change of individual habit grew beyond those personal walls. Suddenly, people were expecting local restaurants, stores and supermarkets to shape up their act. One supermarket took heed and launched the famous Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables campaign.  After that, managers saw that it was actually profitable to sell produce that’s not ‘perfect’. France got serious, and now they passed the most progressive law on food waste seen in government. From now on, supermarkets with large food loss will be obliged to donate their surplus to charities. They’ll do this by July 2016 or face fines, even jail time if they don’t! Also, it’s not illegal to spoil the food by pouring bleach or scaring people with arrest for trying to save the produce from trashcans to feed human.

Maybe it’s too early to celebrate, but we’re seeing food waste back on the menu, and that’s a good sign! Let’s see what our community serves up next!

Will you join? If so, what would you like to see cooking in the kitchen?

Happy celebrations!