Open Feasts is an event series collaboratively hosted by organizations across the MN food system to generate awareness about the issue of wasted food and inspire change in our community. Partners from government, nonprofit, education and for-profit entities have come together to put a spotlight on an issue that touches every part of our food system, from the farm all the way to the waste stream.
Now in its second year, the first of three 2018 Open Feasts events took place July 22nd at Open Streets E. Lake Street. We had a great time with our volunteers learning how to cook and prep food in a way that reduces waste, serving delicious rescued food to our neighbors, and teaching participants about ways to reduce food waste in their homes and communities.
From farm to fork, food waste is an issue that spans across the entire food system and has countless economic, social, and environmental implications. Estimates vary, but it has been reported that anywhere from 30-50% of the food produced in the United States is never eaten. That amounts to roughly 133 billion pounds of food, or when put in terms of dollars and cents, $161 billion thrown away each year.
Food waste is the single largest component of waste in landfills, where it breaks down and releases methane gas – a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Perhaps most upsetting is that alongside all this waste, there are people going to bed hungry right here in our community. One in ten households in Minnesota experiences hunger. The good news is, there are many things we can do to address this problem at each stage of the food chain.
Open Feasts is a collaborative event series, which means that it is not owned by any one organization, but rather each partner contributes what they can to make the events come together. Along with The Food Group, several other groups have been involved with the planning of Open Feasts. The collaboration of all these groups around the issue of wasted food demonstrates just how multifaceted this issue truly is. This coalition is fluid, with partners joining in to participate and contribute resources to this effort as they are able.
Organizing Partners of Open Feasts 2018 include:
The Food Group: The Food Group is a healthy food access and hunger relief organization dedicated to fighting hunger and nourishing our community. Through our network of food shelves, meal programs, Fare for All sites, and Big River Farms, we focus on equity, access, and nutrition issues related to food and hunger.
Taher, Inc: Taher recognizes its role in changing the world, one customer at a time. They are proud to offer a complete portfolio of sustainability programs. We all share this earth and together we can solve the environmental issues we face. As a leader in the food service industry, Taher has developed and implemented innovative policies, systems, and programs that encourage responsible and sustainable practices.
The MN Pollution Control Agency: The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) mission is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health. The MPCA monitors environmental quality, offers technical and financial assistance, and enforces environmental regulations.
Hennepin County Environment & Energy Department: Hennepin County’s Environment and Energy Department is committed to protecting the environment and conserving resources for future generations. Its programs focus on the reduction and responsible management of wastes, the protection of natural resources and the promotion of environmental stewardship.
Eureka Recycling: Eureka Recycling is a 501c3 nonprofit social enterprise and Minnesota’s only zero waste organization, whose mission is to demonstrate that waste is preventable, not inevitable. Their programs are designed to help individuals, organizations, and communities understand the significance of zero waste and to provide the resources and education needed to achieve their own zero-waste goals. Their services and policy work present real world solutions to the social, environmental, and health problems caused by wasting.
Dakota County: The Dakota County Board of Commissioners understands the true cost of wasting food. Preventing wasted food not only saves it from landfills; it conserves the energy, water, land and labor it took to grow it. The Dakota County 2012-2030 Solid Waste Master Plan states that the County will develop a strategic and comprehensive organics diversion outreach program which includes reducing wasted food. Partnering with organizations like Open Feasts reaches residents where they are while also connecting staff working in these areas.
TC Food Justice: TC Food Justice works to reduce food waste and hunger by connecting unsold produce at farmer’s markets and grocers to hunger relief groups in the Twin Cities, and specializes in produce deliveries for smaller-capacity organizations. TCFJ volunteers do some produce deliveries using a bike and trailer.
This event was also made possible thanks to Litin Paper Company for their generous support of this event through the donation of compostable foodservice ware, and Food Freedom Radio for helping us spread the word about this important issue. An event like this also requires financial support for things like mechanical refrigeration to keep the food safe, a generator to run our unique and informative refrigerator (see below), and reusable food storage containers so we can keep our events as close to zero waste as possible!
This year, financial support for Open Feasts was provided by:
U of M Institute on the Environment: The Institute on the Environment (IonE) discovers solutions to Earth’s greatest environmental challenges. IonE is accelerating the transition to this future by supporting breakthrough research across disciplines, developing the next generation of global leaders and building transformative partnerships across the state, region and globe.
The MN Pollution Control Agency: As stated above, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) mission is to protect and improve the environment and enhance human health.
Waste Management: Waste Management is the largest environmental solutions provider in North America, serving more than 21 million municipal, commercial and industrial customers in the U.S. and Canada. They have invested in developing waste solutions for a changing world. Today, this includes not just disposal and recycling, but personal counseling to help customers achieve their green goals, including zero waste.
Interested in getting involved? It’s not too late!
We will be at two more Open Streets events this summer:
West Broadway Ave – Saturday, September 15th
Nicollet Avenue – Sunday, September 23rd
Looking to volunteer? Have questions about the event?
Please contact [email protected]
This post was written by Andrea Hills, TFG Sourcing Specialist and Open Feasts Planning Committee member.