Fine-dining meets food-waste reduction at the first annual #NotWasted Dinner

Screen Shot 2019-03-23 at 3.13.33 PMWith a sold-out crowd and a line-up of elegant dishes and drinks, the first annual Not Wasted Dinner demonstrated that fine dining and food waste reduction can come together with delicious results.

Equinox, an upscale restaurant in downtown DC, hosted the Feb. 18 evening, inviting a diverse team of chefs into their kitchen to prepare an elaborate dinner from underutilized ingredients.

Diners were treated to the following four-course meal program:

Canape Reception
Chef Alison Swope – Teaism
Boston lettuce stem with strawberry hull pesto and wilted radicchio
Burmese tofu fried with purée of shiitake mushroom stems

First Course
Chef Robert Wood — SuperFd Catering
Carrot Peel Soup with pickled Swiss chard & cilantro stems

Main Course
Chef Todd Gray — Equinox Restaurant
Cauliflower & Broccoli Stem & Leaf Stirfry ginger, cilantro, carrot dashi broth

Dessert
Chef Gregory Payne — Sodexo
Turkish Carrot Truffles with candied beetroot
Sweet Potato-Apple Trim Cobbler ith ginger root and citrus anglaise

The event, organized in partnership with the DC Food Recovery Working Group and its RescueDish initiative, also featured a panel discussion on the various ways we can all reduce our food waste. Panelists included Amanda Stone of the World Wildlife Fund, Elizabeth Bennet-Parker with Together We Bake, Hilary Landa, with the Ad Council and Laura Monto of Sodexo. The panel was moderated by Lesly Baesens of the DC Food Recovery Working Group.

The Not Wasted Dinner represents how the Working Group’s efforts to unite various stakeholders can help build momentum to reduce food waste in the community.

In 2017, Equinox, long interested in sustainability and famous for its vegan brunch, participated in the inaugural RescueDishDC, a week during which select restaurants across the city featured dishes and drinks made from underutilized ingredients. Equinox created “The Hanson Sour,” a cocktail made from spent lemon husks.

 

Fast forward to the summer of 2018, and the RescueDish initiative organized a networking happy hour at the restaurant. Chef Todd Gray played to the crowd, whipping up what he called Zuppa Di Basura, a “garbage soup” from ingredients including onion peels, fennel branches, and mushroom stems, while bar manager Peter Grimm served limoncello made in his sous vide machine from lemon peels left over after juicing. At the happy hour, Equinox connected with Food Rescue US, which now picks up surplus food from their catering operations at the Museum of the Bible, and (r)evolve, a zero-waste consulting firm that is now helping the restaurant further reduce its environmental impact

The Not Wasted Dinner was born just a few months later, when Ellen, Equinox’s manager, and Robert Wood of SuperFd Catering, sat on a panel about food waste and sustainability in restaurants during Food Recovery Week 2018. Teaism hosted the panel and the restaurant folks got to talking. What if we hosted a dinner, they wondered, where everything on the menu had a food-waste-reducing story?

Hungry for more? The team behind the first #NotWasted dinner is hard at work on another event, scheduled for April 22 – Earth Day. Stay tuned for details!

Hardy Middle School Share Table

Keeping Kids Full with Weekend Bags and Share Tables

By DC Food Project

We want to tell you a story.  Towards the end of the last school year, we were talking with one of the teachers where our children attend.   It had been another great year at the school, the community was stronger and more engaged than ever and we were all getting ready for the summer. The conversation turned, however, when we learned that the teacher was using their own money to put food into one of the children’s backpacks.  This child did not have enough to eat over the weekend when school-provided breakfast and lunch were unavailable. The idea that kids in our school did not have enough food to eat when they went home for the weekend struck a nerve. And it turns out there are more kids facing this challenge than we realized. That conversation led to more conversations with parents, who were equally as shocked as we were.

 

We decided to do something about it: we started DC Food Project.

 

Over the past few months, DC Food Project has been working with school administrators, local organizations, DCPS, amongst others, to develop a Weekend Bag Program that discreetly sends food home over the weekends for children who qualify.  With over 300 bags of food sent home since we launched last fall, we have already begun seeing the positive impact this kind of program has for families who need that extra help.  With two more schools slated to adopt this program for next school year, our team is looking forward to learning how to most effectively scale and how this can work across DC schools.

 

What has been incredibly exciting and in a way, one of the more unanticipated learnings from the Weekend Bag Program, has been for our team to understand how school meals work — and with that, witnessing first hand the amount of food waste that takes place.  If children are going home hungry or don’t have enough food at school, you have to ask yourself – how can we bridge the gap between food waste and food insecurity?

 

So, in conjunction with the Weekend Bag Program, our team has launched a Share Table Program, where students can place unopened and/or sealed foods that they choose not to eat during school breakfast and lunch in a basket, providing an opportunity for other students to take additional helpings of food that would otherwise be thrown away.  Working with DCPS’ Food and Nutrition Services Team and seeking guidance from DGS, the Share Table Program is up and running in 5 DC Public Schools with 15-20 more slated for this school year.

 

It’s a lot — but exciting — with hopes to have a positive impact in our city.  If children come to school not feeling hungry, excited to learn and not worried about their next meal — then, we’ve done something right.

 

Thanks for reading this far — and please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, ideas, thoughts and anything else…

 

To donate and/or to learn more, please visit www.dcfoodproject.org

 

The DC Food Project Team
Alysa, Katie, Krista & LucieHow the Table Works 1