Food Recovery for the 21st Century (podcast)

Jan 12th, 2018 | By | Category: Featured Articles
Recovery produce

Recovery from Wheatsville Food Coop. Photo Credit Allen Schroeder

When it comes to fresh produce, grocers and farmers put their best food forward.

That’s because in this age of rising food costs, consumers demand the best quality they can afford, and believe that shiny, pretty produce is superior in every way to something that is otherwise blemished or misshapen.

Dan Gillotte is the chief executive grocer at Wheastville food coop, a two-store natural food grocery in Austin, owned by 21-thousand Central Texans. He says it is a fact of life that people turn their nose up at perfectly good product that doesn’t have the cosmetic appeal.

“Because we operate in this world,” he says, “we have to play along with that. And so, we have to offer as perfect produce as we can. We’re just glad that we have partnerships with Allen and Break it Down, and are able to get the food into people’s mouths if it’s not so perfect.”

Allen Schroeder is the food recovery expert for Break it Down. Break it Down provides composting and recycling services for businesses, offices, and residents.

And food recovery has become a meaningful part of what they do.

Allen says the food he collects from the Wheatsville stores mostly goes to two community centers in Austin: the Blackland Community Center and South Austin Community Center.

He says, “Those folks line up every day to shop the food. And it is estimated that about 150 families total get to eat some nutritious food [from Wheatsville] weekly.”

According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, up to 40 percent of the food produced in this country is never eaten. There is loss and waste along each link of the food chain. And yet, nationally, one in eight Americans has trouble putting food on the table. In Travis County—that number is one in six.

Allen collects approximately 48-hundred pounds of excess food from various businesses around Austin, and says Wheatsville accounts for 35-hundred pounds weekly. Any food that’s too bruised, has broken skin or any sign of mold is composted in a partnership with Organics “by Gosh”, a company that composts the refuse and then sells it to the public.

Zero waste and making good, healthy food available to food insecure families are two of the goals of food recovery and diversion programs. And Wheatsville Food Coop and its members lead the pack.

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