Filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin have taken it upon themselves to decrease this number. For six months, the pair ate only food that was destined for the waste stream. Their journey was documented in their new film, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story.
In an interview with NPR, Rustemeyer and Baldwin describe the reasons behind the experiment:
Though food waste seems like a daunting issue, “there’s a lot that we as individuals can do. It’s not like other environmental and social issues, where it’s a systemic problem that we don’t play a part in.”
The two went cold turkey, establishing the rules that they could pay for food only if it was heading towards or already in the trash. Most of the time, stores would refuse to sell them any product in such a state, and so Rustemeyer and Baldwin found themselves searching through dumpsters.
Their findings largely consisted of dried goods, frozen meats, and dairy products. Baldwin reports that they once even found maple syrup and over $13,000 worth of organic chocolate bars sitting in a dumpster.
When it comes to produce, Rustemeyer and Baldwin believe that foods tend to go to waste because people are searching for “the best of the best”. And grocery stores don’t make it any easier; there’s a certain standard of food that farmers are required to sell to major grocers. From the interview:
Same at the grocery store: You’re picking your apples and you’re rooting through [the bin,] looking for the most perfect apples. And we forget, actually, they’re all the most perfect apple. They made it through the entire system, and all the energy and water and the transportation that went into bringing them there.
By the end of their experiment, the couple had spent $200 on groceries and had over $20,000 worth of food in their house.
Rustemeyer and Baldwin also recognize not to belittle the experience of those who relied on waste for survival. When they went to areas around their home to search for food, they often found other individuals doing the same thing as a necessity, and not for the sake of a documentary. Soon they started heading further out of town to wholesale areas for food, recognizing that this was a self-imposed project.
Friends caught on to their mission, and now look at food in a brand new light. Rustemeyer and Baldwin hope that the documentary will inspire a similar realization among viewers, and have illustrated some ways that consumers can begin to lessen their food waste.
Really, we shouldn’t even call it food waste, because of all the connotations associated with that word. It’s surplus. It’s extra food in our system that should not be in the landfill, that needs to get to people who need it.
Photo via iStock
Amanda Kohr is a 25-year-old writer and photographer with a penchant for yoga, food, and travel. She prefers to bathe in the moonlight rather than the sun, and enjoys living in a state of the three C’s: cozy, creative, and curious. When she’s not writing, you can find her driving her VW Bug, looking for the next roadside attraction or family diner. She also roams the internet via her blog at cozycaravan.com.