Upcycling Food Waste

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Crusty heels of loaves of bread which are used to make Toast Ale. All photos from: npr.org

We are no strangers to the food waste crisis. We recently wrote about the average landfill contribution per person per state in the U.S. and on prior occasions have shared stories about the severity of poor “waste” management.  At the same time, we acknowledge that there are people who are leading the cause to reduce the amount of food thrown away and salvage the unwanted scraps into healthful and tasty food, or otherwise useful products. It is important for us to share these stories to serve as inspiration for those with an entrepreneurial spirit and to inform citizens how they can support these businesses or organizations.

Toast Ale is a London-based company that sources fresh, surplus bread that would otherwise be thrown out to brew suds and create beer. The company believes it has found an environmentally friendly way to tap into the booming craft beer market.

Toast Ale frames the beer as a clever way to make use of food that would be arbitrarily cast aside. There’s nothing wrong with those knobby, crusty heels on loaves of bread, Ziane notes — it’s just that, “for reasons of taste preference or texture preference, it isn’t part of the product that’s sold” as a premade sandwich.

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Toast has negotiated a contract with a sandwich company, which donates its rejected slices free of charge. The beer retails for £3.00 (nearly $4 U.S.) a bottle, sold in cases of six. So far, 830 kilos of bread have gone into 25,000 bottles of Toast’s pale ale, estimates Louisa Ziane, who manages media and communications for the company.

Profits from the sale of Toast Ale go to Feedback, and environmental organization that campaigns to end food waste and every level of the food system.

Another initiative fighting to reduce food waste was started by Jonathan Deutsch, who noticed that local soup kitchens and food pantries were often flush with food that remained collecting dust on the shelves.

“People kept going through the line with chicken, salad … they’d get to a case of brown bananas, but they kept walking,” says Deutsch, the founder of the Drexel Food Lab, a culinary research group at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Conveying castoff produce to hungry people seemed like a good idea — but only if consumers are game. Instead, even with the best intentions, Deutsch says, the store-to-pantry pipeline sometimes amounts to little more than “shifting trash around the city.”

Enter Rescued Relish, an anything-goes condiment and a way to preserve and monetize those would-be scraps. The Food Lab has enlisted Brine Street Picklery to produce batches of relishes made from excess produce that Philabundance, the local anti-hunger organization, can’t move.

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Rescued Relish is an anything-goes condiment made from excess produce.

The relish is modeled on a Pennsylvania Dutch chowchow recipe — a tangy mix of sweet, spicy and sour flavors. And it’s a way to capitalize on, rather than complain about, the variation in food donated to the food bank. Relish, Deutsch explains, has a flexible identity. “It’s still relish if it has more cabbage this week than it did last week,” he says. A pinch of this, a tablespoon of that — Deutsch appreciates that the condiment is “a vegetable version of nose-to-tail eating,” with a similar goal of putting scraps to work.

Toast Ale and Rescued Relish are only two examples of the variety of ways to tackle to food waste crisis and their initiatives are raising awareness about the problem to the consumer and offering an opportunity to support the cause.

Read the full article here.

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