The 1st NYC Food Waste Fair

 

This is the first year that the city decided to hold it’s very first Food Waste Fair. The goal was to bring together sustainability experts and the food industry to learn how to reduce costs and get the most out of ingredients, while improving the city’s environment.

We saw many familiar faces of people and organizations we have been collaborating with on food waste projects, including Tama Matsuoka Wong, who moderated a panel of chefs and discussed their methods of reducing food waste. The chefs discussed ideas such as getting broccoli heads from a neighboring restaurant that only uses the cores. Also making a seasonal soup out of an array of vegetable scraps, including hot pepper seeds, and enriching it with coconut milk. They also use broken rice, which is the odd small misshapen pieces of rice at the end of processing, which is something we also use in our kitchen to make a rice grits risotto. It was great to hear about all the unique methods various restaurants are using in their kitchens to utilize every part of each ingredient while at the same time intensifying flavors and making creative dishes.

Our compost consulting company, Common Ground Compost had their booth at the conference. They helped us to implement our new compost separation program in the kitchen by training our staff and creating custom signage for us. Their extensive knowledge of compostables and recycling was beyond helpful for us in this transition phase.

I attended many insightful panels on an array of topics from Smart Procurement to How to Conduct a Food Waste Audit. However, the panel that was the most enlightening was the one dedicated to Food Donation. In the past when we had excess day-old bread or other uncontaminated food I have felt limited by the 50lb minimum required by larger food rescue services. At the conference we learned about an array of smaller nonprofits, like Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, that will come pick up food no matter the weight. Furthermore we learned more about getting tax deductions for food donations, which really makes it a win-win for everyone.

All in all the conference made me confident that our ever expanding and heavily populated city is headed in the right direction in terms of reducing our carbon footprint. They have plans to expand compost programs into all restaurants and offer residential composting services for three million residences by the end of this year. All around the city I come across unique food waste reduction solutions. Just last week at the Greenmarket I saw a line cook bringing large bags of liquid to Alewife Farm’s stand. I inquired on what it was and the farmer told me it was whey leftover from the restaurant’s homemade yogurt and that they offered it to him to put on his crops for probiotic benefits! It is inspiring to see people in all areas of the industry being mindful and collaborating in creative ways to not only reduce food waste but also improve our environment.