Toronto Star

Rethinking the $31B we waste in food

Chefs, suppliers lend scraps for rescued-food dining experience to raise awareness of our wasteful ways


Brock Shepherd is begging us to reconsider what food we throw away.

The Toronto chef is the head organizer of Trashed and Wasted, a rescued-food dining experience at Wychwood Barns on Wednesday. It’s part of a collaborat­ive effort from local distillers, brewers and chefs to raise awareness on the issue of food waste.

“In every aspect of this event, we want to make people realize that everything’s got a bit more of a life than you think,” he said. “There’s so much work to do to raise awareness. Restaurant­s can be leaders in that.”

An estimated $31 billion worth of food is wasted by Canadians annually, according to a 2014 report. Of that, 47 per cent is wasted in the home.

Trash and Wasted is open to the public. The allinclusi­ve, $50 ticket gets you eats and drinks from nine different food and drink vendors, who will make dishes using typically discarded ingredient­s. The objective is to open people’s minds to what they, personally, can save from the trash and to rethink what they can use in the kitchen.

Yongehurst Distillery Co. in Davenport off Geary Ave. is creating vodka with leftover cheese whey from Stratford’s Monforte Dairy and grappa from discarded Chasers Juice grapes.

Rainhard Brewing Co. on Symes Rd. in York is brewing beer with leftover sourdough and rye breads from Kensington Market’s Blackbird Bakery. Hooked Inc., which has locations on Queen St. W. in Kensington Market and in Port Calling and Halifax, is cooking up fish head Tom Yum soup.

Green plantain skins will become a stew by the folks from Arepa Café, in homage to the food shortage in Venezuela (apparently the fibre-rich dish “tastes almost like eggplant”).

With this event, Toronto joins world-class cities in a fight to avoid filling the landfill with perfectly good food. It is part of a growing, global effort to save the scraps and manage limited food harvests more effectivel­y moving forward.

For example, Denmark recently opened WeFood, a first-of-its-kind supermarke­t that sells goods at a discount due to overdue “best before” dates and damaged packaging; France passed strict supermarke­t laws in 2015, forcing grocers to donate unused products, turn them into animal feed or compost; and in 2013, South Korea introduced a pay-as-you-trash system, charging residents by weight for garbage removal.

Closer to home, local Loblaws stores have begun selling Naturally Imperfect produce, normalizin­g “ugly” food and selling it at a discount.

“(This movement is) about conscious, progressiv­e food management,” said Christophe­r Barrett, chef de cuisine of Oliver & Bonacini Events and Catering, who kept his Trashed and Wasted culinary offering close to his chest.

It’s almost a turn to traditions of days gone by, he said. Local, organic, sustainabl­e, artisanal and low-impact food production was a way of life before they were buzzwords.

“There’s a growing awareness that this hyper-industrial­ized approach to all things food industry is not working,” he said. “It’s a decadent, wasteful, processed hell without soul . . . it’s not training the next generation of cooks to foster respect for where stuff comes from.”

The reverence for ingredient­s extends to all moving parts of the contempora­ry food chain, the chefs said. But it’s not simply food being lost when you toss it: the labour, water, fuel, farming production, distributi­on, time, logistics and packaging is wasted, too.

“There are so many things going wrong (about how we produce and distribute food) from start to finish,” Shepherd said.

He hopes the event will also highlight how this waste relates to food insecurity. While perfectly good food is being tossed every day, one in eight families struggle to put meals on the table, according to Food Banks Canada’s HungerCoun­t 2015 report.

Shepherd is collaborat­ing with Second Harvest, a Toronto organizati­on that rescued 4.3 million kilograms of food destined for landfills last year through partnershi­ps with suppliers and grocers. With that diverted food, the not-for-profit provided 25,000 meals to Torontonia­ns in need last year.

Shepherd stresses that rescued food isn’t garbage and these groups aren’t using trash to feed the hungry.

“We have to change that stigma. This is perfectly good food,” he said.

Debra Lawson, the executive director of Second Harvest, said the demand for high-quality, esthetical­ly pleasing food is a key factor behind consumer food waste. In North America, roughly 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables are rejected by supermarke­ts for not being “attractive enough.”

But we’re at a tipping point, Lawson said. The real change will come with behavioura­l and attitudina­l change, she added. “It’s not waste until you throw it away.”

Lawson said there are basically two different types of food waste: large-scale level of overproduc­tion — or surplus crops and products that exceed the market demand — and personal.

“Ask yourself: How should we be shopping? How much should we be buying at atime? How can we use everything? Put a clear, glass, large jar on your kitchen counter for a week so that you can see (how much food you waste),” Lawson said. “Don’t hide it away like we hide away a lot of things.”

 ?? NICK KOZAK FOR THE TORONTO STAR ?? John-Paul Sacco, left, Brock Shepherd and Rocco Panacci are raising awareness of food waste through a food-rescue event.
NICK KOZAK FOR THE TORONTO STAR John-Paul Sacco, left, Brock Shepherd and Rocco Panacci are raising awareness of food waste through a food-rescue event.

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