This post was originally published October 26, 2016 on Feeding America’s website.
Never at a loss for fun ways to highlight good work, chefs at the New Hampshire Food Bank paired up with the Manchester Community Farmers Market this season to encourage people to embrace “the Uglies.” Food banks have always accepted ‘salvage’, non-perishable food that is of high quality and safe for human consumption. These are the staple items donated from food drives and retail partners. NH Food Bank, however, has been accepting rescued meat and ugly produce since 2008 to support its meals programs prepared in its culinary job training program. They turn these perfectly usable imperfect foods into delicious meals and side dishes for agencies of the food bank. In fact, the Recipe for Success Culinary Job Training Program at the NH Food Bank was started with three goals in mind:
- To provide job preparation for unemployed adults
- To make prepared foods for partner agencies of the food bank
- To capture and use perishable foods such as produce that may not meet the aesthetic standards of grocery stores, but can be used to create nutritious and tasty meals
A new project this summer for the Recipe for Success kitchen has been partnering with farmers markets to demonstrate how to use ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables from the market. Our chefs and students head out to the local market once a month with their mobile kitchen, vendors donate their ugly food and the chefs work up delicious samples of easy dishes providing customers with ideas for using more fresh fruits and vegetables in sustainable ways, and discouraging food waste. Market goers learn these sustainable cooking practices as well as the efforts of the NH Food Bank to fight hunger in our state.
Nationally, food waste is a hot topic and there is a growing movement to reduce the 70 million pounds of food wasted in the United States each year. Most food waste in the United States comes from the retail food and consumer sectors. At first the farmers were reluctant to donate truly ugly food because they have become so talented at merchandising and selling aesthetically pleasing food. They now look forward to the chefs’ arrival and some even proudly display misshapen foods.
The NH Food Bank always strives to be a part of the solution to the nation’s food waste issue. Last year we distributed more than 12 million pounds of food to our 1 in 9 neighbors in need.
HC Costello, MS, RD, LD, is program manager at New Hampshire Food Bank.