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Waste Not
Resource Optimization Is Driving the Future of Food

In the face of climate change, embracing new methods of agricultural production, consuming responsibly and adopting circular business models will be critical to forging a sustainable future and achieving both income and food security.

According to research conducted by nonprofit ReFED, sixty-three million tons of food worth $218 billion is wasted each year in the United States — one-third of which is wasted by restaurants and commercial food service businesses. To stop food waste in its tracks, the James Beard Foundation, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, teamed up with Drexel University’s Center for Food & Hospitality to design and implement a curriculum around food waste reduction.

The James Beard Foundation appointed Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, a professor at Drexel’s Center for Food & Hospitality and founder of Drexel’s Food Lab, as the inaugural JBF Impact Program Fellow. Deutsch will oversee the development, pilot and national roll-out of a program aimed at reducing food waste.

“Recovering would-be food waste and transforming it into an item people would purchase and eat will create revenue, jobs and ultimately create a more sustainable food system,” Deutsch said. “I’m honored to have been selected as a James Beard Foundation Impact Program Fellow. Food product design and innovation that can help solve real-world food system problems is foundational to what we do at Drexel. It should be an issue that is top-of-mind for today’s chefs and those of tomorrow.”

The program will pilot a professional development curriculum with a focus on food waste reduction and will offer skills training, values exchange and the circular tools needed to inspire current and future generations of culinary students to minimize waste.

As part of the program, Drexel University will also collaborate with other schools, including New York University, The Academy of Culinary Arts, Boston University and Colorado State University on topics such as curriculum development, piloting lessons, assessment of student and instructor feedback and refining of the curriculum.

“Drexel, the Center, our students and faculty are uniquely positioned to contribute to the James Beard Foundation’s mission to reduce food waste among chefs, restaurants and culinary professionals across the United States,” said Rosemary Trout, Culinary Arts & Food Science program director and assistant clinical professor at Drexel. “We need to take a look at how we can better feed America and best preserve resources that many Americans have little of, or are completely without. This is an ongoing conversation about impacting real change — and we are eager to work with JBF and our peers to find solutions to food waste.”

Vertical farming is likely to play a key role in feeding urban areas in the future — an idea tech startup Plenty is betting on. The San Francisco-based company endeavors to scale the agricultural approach around the world and, after raising $200 million in funding, is well on its way to achieving this goal — in spring 2018, Plenty will open up a second farm in Seattle, Washington.

The new 100,000-square-foot facility is twice the size of its Bay Area predecessor and is expected to produce 4.5 million pounds of greens annually — enough to feed over 180,000 people per year. Plenty will later expand production to include fruits, such as strawberries, tomatoes and watermelons.

In addition to providing an effective way to feed the masses, Plenty’s vertical farm is certified organic and requires no soil or pesticides. What’s more, the farm uses water efficiently, collecting it from condensation and then recycling it back into the system continuously. The climate is controlled and does not require natural sunlight, making it easy to produce local, organic and inexpensive produce year-round.

According to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics and NGO Rural Education and Agriculture Development (READ), beer could hold the key to climate resilience for thousands of smallholder farmers in India.

Diversification is critical in the face of drought, which threatens both food security and income for local communities in the Telangana region of India. By engaging in other income-generating activities, farmers can safeguard their livelihoods when rains fail. This is exactly what brewing giant AB InBev had in mind when it partnered with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and NGO Rural Education and Agriculture Development (READ) to launch a new initiative that aims to provide income to vulnerable farming communities while simultaneously preventing brewery byproduct from entering landfill.

Packed with proteins, minerals, lipids and dietary fiber, spent malt from the beer-brewing process is a valuable resource that often ends up as waste. AB InBev, however, recognized the potential of the byproduct and began selling it to cattle owners in the nearby Fasalvadi village as a nutritious feed for their livestock. The program has been met with considerable success, with farmers noting a significant increase in milk production — and income.

“Since we started feeding the cows and buffaloes with spent malt, we’re seeing an increase in milk production by them. The cattle give at least two liters more milk per day than before. Not only that, the milk has higher fat content and better taste. As a result, the cattle owners are enjoying a good increase in income after this project started in our village,” said Saayamma, village head of Fasalvadi.

Income security has resulted in a number of additional benefits as well, including a greater awareness of the importance of hygiene and education. What’s more, the program has provided new opportunities for women and improved their position within their communities.

“We want to take a holistic, sustainable approach to rural development and believe that women play a key role in it,” said Suhas Wani, director at ICRISAT’s Development Center. “By increasing livelihood opportunities for women, such initiatives create better financial security for rural families, which are especially susceptible to climate change impacts.”

According to Ashwin Kak, senior manager at ABInBev, the success of the program has prompted the brewery to expand the program to eight more villages and four more self-help groups later this year.


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