We are all guilty of it.
There’s a sad bag of spinach in your fridge all week slowly wilting to the point it becomes more slime than leaves or berries that become more fuzz than fruit. We toss it in the trash without a second thought.
With ambitious healthy purchases of buying produce in abundance comes the risk of throwing it away before you get a chance to eat it. Whatever the original intention, it is one of the issues the first DC Food Waste Week (FWW) is trying to address.
Through October 10, several D.C. restaurants, along with Restaurant Associtaion of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) and Imperfect Foods, are featuring dishes and hosting events to bring awareness to how we — food industries, governments, and consumers — need to come together and work toward reducing how much food waste we produce.
According to the USDA, between 30 to 40 percent of quality food is thrown away. The startlingly high estimates are disheartening, but Imperfect Foods’ Associate Creative Director Reilly Brock chooses to focus on the silver lining: the opportunity for collaboration.
“Food waste is a huge problem,” Reilly said at the opening of DC Food Waste Week at Dauphine’s on October 6. “Any problem this big has so many points of intervention, though. It’s going to take all of us on an individual, local, government, restaurant and business level working together to solve it. To do so, we are going to need cross-pollination, so that’s what tonight and this whole week is all about.”
Imperfect Foods is a food delivery service, which works towards rescuing food from farms, producers and eateries that might be slightly damaged or not the prettiest (think a slightly blemished apple or oddly shaped carrot). However, despite the appearance of the ingredients, they are just as nutritious, edible and delicious as the “perfect” produce and goods we expect at grocery stores.
One of the meals at FWW kick-off dinner was Dauphine’s “crawfish” boil salad. Contrary to its name, the dish has no crawfish, but instead is a salad piled high with potatoes, mushrooms and corn, sitting on a rich celery aioli and topped with peppery arugula. The brightly balanced course also happens to be created using solely Imperfect Foods ingredients in honor of Food Waste Week.
Other restaurants featuring their own limited-time Imperfect Food dishes are Chaia (Chinatown’s location), ANXO, Toki Underground, Seylou Bakery and Rasa Grill. For every featured dish sold at any of the listed restaurants, $5 will go to DC Central Kitchen and efforts to rescuing 1,000 pounds of food in the District that would otherwise be tossed by restaurants and institutions.
All participating restaurants are also hosting an event at their locations to promote awareness and education on food waste including a cocktail demonstration using rescued ingredients at Toki Underground, a cooking class using the entirety of ingredients with zero scraps at Rasa Grill, and a pizza party at ANXO that will offer a free ANXO cider with every purchase of their featured Imperfect Foods pizza.
Although the task of reducing food waste is daunting, there are small and simple steps we can individually take to make a significant impact. Steps like composting, being more thoughtful on the quantity of produce we purchase, using as much of an ingredient as possible when cooking, buying from environmentally conscious food distributors, and looking at which restaurants are working to compost and donate leftover food instead of throwing out their food scraps.
As RAMW president and CEO Kathy Hollinger explains, “We’re in reset mode as humanity. And this is the time — as inopportune as it might seem because everyone’s still in crisis a little bit — to reset and rethink how we do business. How we think about our operations. How we think about food waste.”
The First DC Food Waste Week is from October 6 to October 10. To learn more about the week, participating restaurants and the events and Imperfect Foods, visit imperfectfoods.com or follow them on Instagram @imperfectfoods.com.