By Jaime Fuller, Bethany Carlson and Dave DeLuca
The joys of living in a rich, industrialized country include getting our hands on nearly any food item we desire at nearly any time of day. Grocery stores are kept stocked full of our favorite and necessary edibles. But is there a cost to this exorbitance? Why yes, yes there is. According to NPR.com, “Supermarkets and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but nearly a third of it never makes it to a stomach.” Consumers want perfect, pristine fresh produce, which means retailers throw out heaps of decent, edible food that might only have a blemish or be slightly overripe. A full 10 percent of the available food supply in the U.S. is wasted every year at the retail level, reveals the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and about 20 percent is wasted at home.
We at The Advocate did a little research of our own to determine if food is going to waste locally. After scoping out a variety of food retailers, these were our findings:
All leftover breads are donated to a multitude of different organizations including gleaners, churches, and school events. At the end of each day, one group or another stops by to collect breads, sweets, cookies, and scones.
New Morning Bakery
New Morning donates all breads and day-old pastries to various groups, but also gives their food scraps and coffee grounds to local farmers. Leftover bread is contributed to the South Corvallis Food Bank. Day-old pastries go to several organizations, such as schools and churches. An organization can submit a donation request for a specific date or length of time. The only regular donation group they have is on Saturdays, when leftovers are provided to Habitat for Humanity. Other than bread and pastries, NMB doesn’t have much food remaining at the end of the day. Maybe a sandwich or two, which employees can take home with them. If you are interested in submitting a donation request, write a letter describing your need and deliver it to Kera James at New Morning. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, though she prefers a hard copy letter, as it won’t get buried in her junk email.
This bagel and soup shop donates bags full of bagels, cookies, and assorted pastries to the community every night. In fact, all of the corporate-owned Panera stores end their day by giving away leftovers. Five different local charities, including the Oregon Food Bank, take turns hauling away donated food. Depending on the time of year, anywhere from one to three boxes and upwards of five big garbage bags full of leftover products are taken. That’s a lot of muffins!
Very little food reaches its pull date here. Weekly specials sometimes make use of food that otherwise might not be served before its expiration, said Llanet Grischott, one of Block 15’s managers. That’s one way of adding creativity to their menu.
Flat Tail Brewing
Not much waste here either, said Kyle Davis. Food is ordered three times a week, and the brewery’s high turnover prevents food from nearing its expiration.
The Planet makes an effort to not have any leftover food. Whatever is left gets composted.
Caves uses up most of the food that it brings in. Food scraps and their compostable napkins and straws are composted.
To keep food waste at a minimum, Magenta only buys what it uses and makes everything to order. If a customer leaves food on the plate, it becomes a meal for the chickens. Owner and chef Kimber Hoang explained, “I am very conscious about food waste. There are a lot of starving people, so to have food get wasted is very sad. My father wanted me to own a restaurant so I wouldn’t waste food.”
All leftover bread and cookies are donated to a local shelter, and other remaining food is sometimes donated. In the past during Thanksgiving, Big River has hosted a low-income and homeless feed. They have volunteers help cook and prepare the food, and a big plate of traditional Thanksgiving fare is free for everyone who comes in. Any food not used up at the feed is donated to a local shelter. Staff was uncertain as to whether the Thanksgiving feed will happen again this year, but if it’s a go, they will be advertising profusely.
The kitchen is pretty careful at Del Alma. There isn’t very much waste, since food costs are incredibly high. All menu items are served on small plates, so typically there are zero leftovers from customers, or they take home any uneaten portion of their meals.
First Alternative Co-op
Vegetable waste from the produce department is collected by people who want it for compost or chicken feed, said First Alt’s deli manager Jeannie Holiday. Food items are collected by Mary’s River Gleaners and Stone Soup. “Most of our Stone Soup donations are from our meat department,” said Holiday. “Perishables [like yogurt, cheese, or cold deli food] can be donated as long as the sell-by date is clearly visible, and as long as the product has been stored at safe, legal temperatures,” she continued. Prepared foods, which are served hot, cannot be donated for health reasons, and must be thrown away if they aren’t bought by the end of the day. Holiday said sometimes employees will buy up hot deli items before closing to prevent them from going to waste.
Trader Joe’s local branch would not comment directly to The Advocate, but their national director of public relations, Alison Mochizuki, said, “Trader Joe’s long-running policy is to donate products that are not fit for sale but are safe for consumption. Each store has a designated donation coordinator, whose responsibilities include working with local food banks, food pantries, and/or soup kitchens in their communities to facilitate donations seven days a week.” She added that nationwide, Trader Joe’s donations to food banks amounted to over $260 million worth of food. When asked how many pounds of food the Corvallis store donated last year, Mochizuki said they had no additional comment at this time.
Market of Choice
This upscale grocer doesn’t let much of their extra food go to waste. Products in their bakery, kitchen, and grocery departments that are past pull date are donated to local gleaners. Specifically, Albany Gleaners and Harrisburg Harvesters Gleaners Inc. pick up the leftovers on alternating weeks. Sometimes as many as two or three cartloads of food are collected by the local non-profit organizations, which then donate the surplus to needy families. Although it is always the goal of MOC to produce as little extra food as possible, they are happy to give away what they cannot sell. In fact, they give away leftover hot foods from their kitchen to a local farmer, who uses it for pig slop. I hope Wilbur and Arnold like jojos and pizza by the slice.
All in all, Corvallis retailers do a great job of reducing the amount of food that goes to the landfill. Grocery stores seem to end up with the greatest amount of fare that can’t be sold, but they are active about giving it to people in need. If we are going to live lavishly in this country, it’s only fair to share otherwise wasted nutrients with those who are less fortunate. We then create a little more balance in the world.