Coordinating food recovery efforts during COVID-19

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Food Rescue US pickup from a business shedding inventory amid COVID-19. 

About 40 food recovery and food waste reduction advocates gathered virtually Friday to share resources and discuss the best ways to collaborate to make sure everyone has enough to eat and good food isn’t wasted as the world deals with COVID-19.

Food rescuers, composting experts, food policy leaders and others shared their latest work and updates in a slide deck which is available here

Highlights included:

Food Rescue US – Kate Urbank, whose volunteer network picks up unwanted food from businesses and delivers it to nonprofits, noted that her volunteers had been picking up food from restaurants, caterers and hotels that were shutting down operations. She reported a huge increase in volunteer sign-ups, as well massive rescues, including a 2,000-pound donation from a food supplier. However, she’s concerned that some restaurants may not know about food rescue and are dumping food at a time when it’s in high demand in vulnerable communities. She’s also looking for alternate sources of food as her usual suppliers shutter. Reach her at kate@foodrescue.us.

DC Food Project – This group has created a very comprehensive guide for food access for those in need. They are also distributing “Emergency Weekend Bags” to equip families with steady supplies of healthy food. If you’d like to donate, contact: dcfoodproject@gmail.com.

DC Food Policy Council. The DCFPC is helping coordinate the city’s emergency response and shared updates on their work as well as guidelines (in slide deck) for those working to keep the city fed during the crisis.

RescueDish – The DCFRWG program that normally works with restaurants to model food waste reduction for consumers is urging residents to support its partners (listed in slide deck) with food orders as well as purchases of gift cards and donations to employee relief funds. Some restaurants, like Mola, are shifting to market models and selling groceries, providing an alternative to grocery trips while also supporting local farms.

EatOrToss.com –  This website, which provides consumer-friendly information on “questionable” food and tips for stretching ingredients, has seen a large increase in traffic since people started staying home and cooking more. For any organizations focused on consumer education, EatOrToss founder and FRWG board member Rachael Jackson reports that now is a particularly good time for promoting reducing food waste at home.

Composting and community gardening. Members report that as commercial compost business is down, more residents are signing up for at home compost pickup. Compost drop-off sites at farmers markets in each ward are expected to stay open as long as the markets are open. USCC/ILSR Composting in the Time of COVID-19 webinar series  will be available April 7, 14, 21. Meanwhile, DC Parks and Recreation urban farms and gardens are open, as are Department of Public Works compost cooperatives, though social distancing guidelines are being observed. 

Last Call for Food. This company, which normally works with restaurants to sell discounted meals at the end of the day, is looking to create a voucher program that would help keep restaurants in business while feeding those in need. If your restaurant would like to participate, email Erin McGeoy, erin@lastcallforfood.com.

Resources. Shared resources included:
Dining at a Distance . A comprehensive lists of restaurants (take out/delivery) and farms (delivery and farmside pick up)
COVID-19 – Related Wasted Food Resources. A national list of resources related to COVID-19 and food waste, access, safety, composting.
Hunger Free America is developing national food assistance databases (will be public & used for national Hunger Hotline) – please respond to their survey 
– Home Food Waste Challenge (Beth Gingold, Recycle Leaders)- 4 week competition, sign up by 4/10 Let’s Team Up on Food Waste @ Home for Earth Day!_
– Food Recovery Network’s Donate Surplus Food During COVID-19 National Emergency
– Future Harvest and MD Farmers Market Association launched a Find a Farmer Map last week for the Metro Region.
– Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic: Donating Excess Food During COVID-19 National Emergency
– Virginia Cooperative Extension has a number of resources on food safety and access amid COVID-19. 

For more, please check out the slide deck.

2019: DC Food Recovery Working Group’s Year in Review

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The DC Food Recovery Working Group had a busy 2019! Among our accomplishments:

We helped update food recovery legal  guidelines in DC
The DC Food Recovery Working Group worked with the Harvard Food Law & Policy Center to update a comprehensive guide to food donation in the District of Columbia. The Harvard Center took the lead on the DC Food Recovery Legal Guide, which includes information on tax incentives, liability protections, date labeling, food safety and food recovery in schools. The document was first published in 2017, but was updated to reflect the Save Good Food Act, which the DC City Council passed in 2018

 

We organized a number of food-waste-reducing events with local restaurants
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RescueDishDC
The DC Food Recovery Working Group’s signature restaurant event took place from July 13 to 20. During the week, about 15 restaurants highlighted dishes demonstrating creative ways to eat well while reducing food waste food waste. Find details on their amazing creations here.

Ticketed dinners
The DCFRWG’s RescueDish initiative also partnered with DC restaurants, particularly ANXO and Equinox, on ticketed events that highlighted creative ways to use ingredients that many home cooks toss. Events included:

February – NotWasted dinner at Equinox, with a panel including representatives from the World Wildlife Fund, Sodexo, the Ad Council (on behalf of SaveTheFood.com) and Together We Bake.

April – NotWasted Earth Day dinner. With chefs including: Todd Gray, Equinox Restaurant; Robert Wood, SuperFd & EcoCaters; Michelle Brown, Teaism; Gregory Payne, Sodexo; Chef Tee and students, from DC Central Kitchen.

July – Sustainable Super Club hosted by ANXO, with partners including Forested, Slow Food DC, Common Good City Farm, Rooftop Roots and the Accokeek Foundation. This event kicked off RescueDishDC. 

 

We put on the fourth annual DC Food Recovery Week
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From Oct. 19 to 26,  the DCFRWG hosted trainings, classes, forums, and other food-recovery-themed events across the city. Hundreds of people attended events, which focused on topics ranging from composting to food science. Highlights included:

  • A tabling/tasting event hosted by Patagonia’s Georgetown location that drew more than 100 attendees, reaching an audience of people who were relatively new to the issue. 
  • A community composting forum organized in partnership with the DC Chapter of the Sierra Club
  • A happy hour at ANXO featuring upcycled cocktails and fried anchovy bones.

 

We helped recover A LOT of food!
Food Rescue Summer Meals at Turkey Thicket Rec Center

DCFRWG board member Kate Urbank coordinated the rescue of more than a million pounds of food as DC director of Food Rescue US. The national organization picks up surplus foods from restaurants and events and uses volunteer “food runners” to deliver it to nonprofits. The network of the DCFRWG has supported Kate’s efforts to build her donor and volunteer rosters since she launched several years ago. 

We actively engaged the community and spread the word about food waste reduction
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In 2019, DCFRWG members appeared on podcasts and radio shows, testified and sent comments on legislation, helped train local residents as certified composters, advocated for waste-reducing policies across the DC government, sat on panels (like this one and this one) and took other steps to engage their communities and advocate for change. The group also provided a space where members could collaborate and share connections and resources to further food waste reduction in the region. 

 

DC’s first Food Recovery Happy Hour Expo is Thursday!

For the first time, more than a dozen DC agencies, organizations and companies that work on food waste, are coming together to share their stories with the public. Find them at the Food Recovery Week Happy Hour Expo on Thursday!

The Georgetown Patagonia is hosting the event, where a diverse group of organizations, from the EPA to Compost Alex, will be tabling and sharing information about their work. Patagonia is providing food and drinks. In addition, ANXO Cidery will be offering free pours of “rescued” hard cider and Together We Bake will provide samples of products made from rescued produce.

Anyone looking to learn about food waste and reduce it in their homes and workplaces is encouraged to attend. Whether you’re a resident looking to volunteer, a business owner hoping to compost, or a student researching the issue, you’ll find a wealth of resources. Registration is recommended, but not required. Do so here.

The Happy Hour Expo is the central event of this year’s DC Food Recovery Week. Make sure to check out the full schedule of classes and gatherings too!

The following groups—and more—will be tabling at the event.

Check out the new DC Food Recovery Legal Guide; Updated just in time for FRW!

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Thanks to a partnership with the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic and the DC Food Recovery Work Group, the DC Food Recovery Legal Guide has been updated and expanded just in time for Food Recovery Week, which starts today.

You can access the guide here. It is also listed under Policy and Law Resources on the FRWG website.

Policymakers, businesses, emergency food service providers, farmers, and community members interested in a detailed look at the laws, policies, and incentives that are continuing to evolve to reduce food waste will find this informative guide helpful.

First published in 2017, this 2019 guide reflects changes to law in the District of Columbia since the expansive D.C. Save Good Food Amendment Act was passed last year.

The guide provides answers to key questions on who is covered by the law, tax incentives for food donations, liability protections for donations, date labels, food safety, and food recovery in K-12 schools.

The new guide also includes a high-level overview of major laws and policies in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.

Fourth annual DC Food Recovery Week is Oct. 19 – 26!

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Go gleaning. Eat upcycled tapas. Attend a happy hour expo of food-saving work across the region. But whatever you do, don’t waste a morsel from Oct. 19 to 26. It’s DC Food Recovery Week!

The week of events—the DC area’s annual push to address the approximately 40 percent of America’s food that gets dumped every year—is put on by the DC Food Recovery Working Group. A full list of events is available here.

Folks eager to learn can take classes covering topics like low-waste cooking, plastic-free shopping, and assessing whether produce is still good to eat. Those looking for a sustainable bite should head to the annual happy hour at Truxton Circle’s ANXO Cidery & Pintxos Bar, which will feature specials made from underutilized ingredients. For anyone craving a side of entertainment with their food waste awareness, multiple film screenings are on offer.

New this year will be the Food Recovery Week Happy Hour Expo, hosted by Patagonia’s Georgetown location. Representatives from organizations ranging from Food Rescue US to EatOrToss will be staffing tables to share their stories and encourage people to get involved. Drinks and snacks will be available at this free mixer on Thursday, Oct. 24.

The DC Food Recovery Working Group is an all-volunteer organization whose members come from food banks, non-profits, government agencies and for-profit, sustainability-minded businesses. This is the fourth annual Food Recovery Week and the second year that the DCFRWG has worked alongside Manna Food Center to bring awareness to the issue. Manna is offering a parallel slate of events, from Oct. 20 to 26, in Montgomery County, Md. Check out their Community Food Rescue Week, which includes a cooking competition, here. Zero Waste DC is also a promotional partner for the event.

When food is needlessly thrown away, the energy, land and resources used to produce it are thrown away too. And when that food is left to rot in landfills, it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas. It’s particularly tragic to waste food when so many Americans are food insecure. The consequences of food waste are dire, but individual action can make a tremendous difference. It can also be fun! Promise!  Find out more by signing up for Food Recovery Week events!

Follow along on social media: @DCFoodRecovery on Twitter and Facebook, and make sure to tag your posts  #NoWastedFoodDC.

Media contact: Josh Singer, DC Food Recovery Working Group: dcfoodrecovery@gmail.com

 

RescueDishDC takes over DC in July

Screen Shot 2019-09-26 at 4.16.12 PMLemon peels, bread ends, cilantro stems, and other ingredients often tossed featured prominently on select DC menus from July 13 – 20, 2019 as sustainable restaurants across the city joined in RescueDishDC. The goal?  To fight food waste and demonstrate how a little ingenuity can turn underutilized ingredients into amazing taste experiences.

In the U.S. more than a third of food goes to waste, with environmental consequences ranging from carbon emissions to habitat loss. About 80 percent of that waste has been traced to consumers and consumer-facing business. The mission of RescueDish, whose signature event is the weeklong RescueDishDC, is to celebrate restaurants that actively work to reduce their waste, and to use the fun of dining out to inspire consumers to rethink what they are tossing at home. RescueDish is a project of the DC Food Recovery Working Group.

Chefs at participating restaurants (for a full list check out RescueDish.org) made use of ingredients that many homecooks usually throw away—think the leftovers from a marinade, corn cobs or even charred eggplant skin. Some looked to their own operations and supply chains—ANXO served ciderhouse punch made from cider used to clear the lines between batches and The Pig offered pig ear lettuce wraps. Fancy Radish even used upcycled bottles to serve the Ancient Mariner, a cocktail crafted with bar extras like lime peels and orange juice, as well as pickle brine and pineapple skins.

Often such waste-reducing work happens quietly in the kitchen, but during RescueDishDC, restaurants will be engaging with their diners, tableside, at the register, on the menu and on social media to share how they use ingredients to their fullest potential.

While the week has ended, go to these restaurants and ask about their dishes. Some are still on their menus, and, with enough demand, others may come back!

Examples of RescueDishDC specials include:

Equinox

Bar snacks: corn cob soup, crispy potato skins with lemon truffle sour cream

Cocktail: Summer berry shrub with local gin and seltzer

Note: Available during Commuter Hour, 5 – 7 p.m. weeknights

Fancy Radish

Ancient Mariner cocktail, spent lime infused Batavia Arrack, pickle tepache with ginger, bartender’s OJ, served in reused ginger beer bottles (uses limes leftover from juicing, pickle brine, orange juice from oranges used for cocktail garnishes, and pineapple skins)

Maitake Potato Taco, extra maitake mushroom scraps and potato ends served on a flour tortilla, topped with a poblano salsa and curtido (a Salvadoran lightly fermented cabbage relish, which will be made with cabbage leftover from stock preparation)

Little Sesame

Watermelon and tomato “migas,” with burnt eggplant tahini and pickled cilantro stems, served with 7-minute egg. Uses leftover marinade from tomato and watermelon fattoush salad, which will be cooked with yesterday’s pita and topped with tahini made from smokey charred [and usually discarded] eggplant peels. Note: Only available at Little Sesame Chinatown location

Teaism

Rescue Panzanella, with bread ends, juicy tomato bits and broccoli stem pesto. Also includes fresh cucumber, heirloom cherry tomatoes, lettuce and a sauce infused with Lapsang Souchong black tea.

For a full list, including destinations like The Salt Line, Sababa and Blue Duck Tavern who will be highlighting existing dishes with great sustainability stories, head to RescueDish.org.

Follow RescueDishDC on Twitter and Instagram at @RescueDish.

FRWG members participate in food waste panel on Capitol Hill

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By María Cecilia Pfund

On Tuesday, April 6, three members of the DC Food Recovery Working Group ( Kate Urbank, María Cecilia Pfund and William Reid) participated in a panel on food waste and food insecurity. Other panelists included Jeanne Blakenship ( Vice President of Policy Initiatives and Advocacy for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) and Dr. Elise Golan (Director for Sustainable Development at the U.S. Department of Agriculture). Congressman Jim McGovern, chair of the Hunger Caucus and the Food is Medicine Working Group, came to give a brief introduction and highlighted the problem of food insecurity in the US, calling for more findings be available for nutrition programs.

Jeanne Blakenship provided insights on how nutrition professions are looking for ways to educate consumers to reduce food waste with tools including fun handouts and quizes. She also talked about initiatives in collaboration with other organizations such as Feeding America and Further with Food to increase outreach and awareness about these issues.

Dr. Elise Golan focused on the commitment of USDA in reducing food waste. She mentioned the formal agreement signed last year to decrease food waste by half under the Winning on Reducing Food Waste initiative. Additionally, she explained that the Farm Bill created for the first time a Food Loss and Waste Reduction Liaison, which hasn’t yet been funded. Moreover, she showed how USDA is working on research and development products such as edible straws out of food out of fruits and vegetables that otherwise would be wasted.

Kate Urbank talked about opportunities to participate in food rescue through Food Rescue US. Also, she talked about the important role of policies to provide liability protection for food donations and suggested the need to strengthen the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act so that food could also be donated to individuals directly.

Finally, William Reid shared his experienced living off discarded food and gave insight into the large amount of perfectly edible food that is thrown daily into the garbage. He also talked about the high cost of healthful food, which makes it challenging for people with tight budgets to afford a healthy diet.

Overall, it was a well attended and insightful discussion that shed light to the causes, challenges and possible solutions for food waste and food insecurity. Everyone was invited to commit to participate in food rescue activities and diverse ways to decrease food waste.

Carless? You can still be a food rescuer via ride-share apps!

David Kwartler, an intern for Food Rescue US shares the story of his first rescue last winter. He doesn’t have a car, but used Lyft to deliver surplus food from a Georgetown business to Campus Kitchen Project. Sign up yourself at foodrescue.us

It was a cold, dry Tuesday afternoon as I left my apartment and began to head towards Georgetown. After walking a few blocks, I arrived at the food rescue pickup spot, an easily accessible loading dock tucked under an office building. I only had a few hours between my university classes, but this 2:15pm rescue fit perfectly into my schedule, so I was able to use the Food Rescue US mobile app to claim the run. I sent a quick text message to the donors, who brought down boxes full of bread, sweet potatoes, kale, chicken, and more. My first reward was the smile on the food donor’s face when I handed them a sticker for Food Rescue US.

Once I had possession of the food, I opened my phone to the Lyft app. Within a few minutes, Steven arrived in his sedan to help me transport the food about two miles to a local hunger relief agency. I was worried if my Lyft driver would be okay putting eight huge boxes of food in his vehicle, but Steven was eager to help, and I was glad to have some support. We packed the boxes into his trunk and hit the road. After a nine-minute ride down Wisconsin Avenue, we arrived at the receiving agency. Steven helped me unload the food and bring the boxes into the kitchen, as the chef was awaiting their regularly scheduled donation from Food Rescue US runners. I was really amazed to see just how easy it was to make such a positive impact in under 30 minutes, and I only paid $9.26 for the ride, less than the cost of lunch in downtown DC. Even if you don’t have your own vehicle, ride sharing or using a bicycle or scooter can be promising options for city dwellers who want to make a difference.

It felt amazing to see the Food Rescue US model play out in person, and I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was for me to become the missing link between surplus food and hungry mouths, and all it took was quick drive through Georgetown. With the Food Rescue US app, you can be part of the simple solution to end local hunger and reduce food waste.

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