There is an irony that I became aware of the issue of food waste as I write EarthSeder. This month, we’ve been busy writing, editing and shooting our 3rd book: EarthSeder. Our photographer Arun Sharma has an incredible eye. As we began to shoot the project it became evident the differences between someone who wants to create unforgettable art (Arun) and an amateur (me). Both Marnita’s Table and Marketplace publicly state as values that the food pictured in photos in our books is eaten, it was a very different type of glamor food shot than the very polished and glorious shots Arun typically shoots. I’m not sure if Arun will ever be comfortable with the “good enough” style of photography that this project requires although he is passionate about our mission and products. But to me the images he is creating on our behalf are not the “good enough.” Instead he is showing what food looks like. Food isn’t always beautiful nor familiar. What does a green or red lentil look like in a grocery store? We aren’t creating something static or a coffee table book. We are creating a living breathing glossary whose lexicon of food images and descriptions really will help those who use it learn about food from around the globe as we continue to upload more and more of our feasts.
In this case utility was in total sync with values. As a little non-profit the Table’s leadership has always taken stewardship of limited resources as a necessity. It is practical not courageous to conserve very limited resources when you have to transparently justify every penny in and out. So our stance to use every bit of food used in the photos of our books literally afforded us the opportunity to welcome the other to the Table while building the tools that would help anyone else who wanted to invite someone to the Table. We believe it was a good use of our resources. We want to be known as resourceful and innovate. The business partnership–between the Marketplace (for profit which helps to support the non-profit) and the Table (non-profit) allows the two entities to build and provide value at the same time. By quickly photographing the food and then using it at a Table allows both entities to meet business objectives with the same dollar. But that’s not the way it’s usually done. To get one photo of a tomato a food company might discard 30 or 40, To get just the right ear of corn or the right color of a piece of meat, well you get the picture.
Which means we are being fed a very false image of what our food is supposed to look like. I’d never really thought about it. Now that I’ve learned through a Food Network show The Big Waste that over 40% of the food produced in this country ends up in the trash before it ever gets to the table. Largely rejected because we don’t like the way it looks.
My question for the day flows from this fact.
Have you ever rejected a fruit or a vegetable because it was less than perfect? Have you ever thought much about where the food that isn’t deemed “perfect” goes?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot these days. It is so much harder changing my own behavior than talking about what steps “all of us” should or could take.