The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted, mostly from household kitchens and refrigerators. If you are like nearly 80% of Americans, you might be feeling guilty when you chuck food into the garbage. This August, the Greenburgh Public Library teamed up with local culinary experts, sustainability gurus, and organizations to raise awareness of the enormity of the food waste problem, where it comes from, and practical advice for wasting less.
On Tuesday, August 23rd, the library welcomed culinary expert, Executive Chef, and Library Board member Tomas Saez. Tomas’s root to stalk cooking presentation provided attendees with tips and tricks for using all parts of the vegetable. Tomas showed us how to create a delicious pesto using green carrot tops (It was really the best I have ever had! Find the recipe here), how to create a soup base from many vegetable scraps (Give it a try!), and how to use elements like vinegar, citrus, and salt and pepper to transform bitter greens into a delicious side slaw.
Tomas’s dishes were all created with vegetables carefully harvested, and kindly shared from his personal garden. While they were all beautiful, they were unconventionally so, which was another important point. “Ugly food” is also delicious, and by no means less healthy for you than the perfect produce that you find in the supermarket. Try growing some veggies yourself, and embrace their character by turning them into a delicious dish!
The library also partnered with several organizations (Greenburgh Nature Center, Roots & Wings, the Food Bank for Westchester, and Sun Fed Beef) to host a screening of the documentary Just Eat It, followed by an expert panel discussion, which took place on Tuesday, August 30th. Just Eat It follows filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer, as they embark on a challenge to eat nothing but food waste for 6 months. The film is significant and eye opening, as well as humorous and profoundly human, as it dives deep into the food life cycle, and the many ways food is wasted. After the screening our expert panel (representing our partner organizations) highlighted the many ways that their work is reducing food waste locally:
Rachel Carpitella of the Greenburgh Nature Center, discussed the GNC’s partnerships with area schools to educate children about food waste (don’t throw out your lunch apple, it’s a perfectly good afternoon snack!), as well as recycling programs that reduce the amount of garbage going into the county’s incinerators. Gabriela Munoz of Roots & Wings, emphasized the importance of our connectedness to food, an getting closer to it by growing our own, sharing it, and supporting permaculture. She recommended learning more about permaculture by attending a screening of Inhabit, this weekend (Sat, 9/3 @ 6:00 pm at SUNY PC4 in Yonkers). Mike Underwood of Sun Fed Beef, encouraged us all to eat more sustainably produced meat, and to try cuts that make more efficient use of an animal, as well as the more unusual parts that often go to waste (for tips try: Nose to Tail Cooking). Steve Sullivan of the Food Bank for Westchester, made sure we all knew how hard the Food Bank’s retail store recovery program works to pick up food being tossed by retailers, and to get it into the hands of those in our community who need it most. Last year they rescued 756,000 lbs. of food that would have otherwise gone to waste. The panelists also took many questions from the audience.
If you could not make it to either program, or if you did and you’d like to know more, please download the JustEatIt_Program, which has recommended reading, links to resources, and suggestions for opportunities to get involved. There is a lot that can be done to waste less food, sometimes the easiest way is to… just eat it!