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Anne Young

From the Team


November 14, 2016


Each and every one of you Foodstanders is an inspiration! Be sure and take a moment to pat yourself on the back, and thank yourself for making awesome changes in your life, one day at a time. In the last week we’ve avoided over 450,000 grams of sugar, and consumed 20,000 glasses of water! #HighFives to everyone for working so hard to build lasting healthy eating habits.

A huge welcome to all new Foodstanders! We’re so glad you’ve decided to build good eating habits and make the better choice when it comes to what you put into your bodies. You’re worth it! Since there are so many new folks in the community, we want to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and share some tips that came up this week. If you have a thought or question for the community, please ask or share!

Q: Can you do more than one Challenge at once?
A: No. It has been shown that tackling one aspect of your diet at a time is the best way to form new habits. Work your way through the levels of your current Challenge, and when you feel as though you’ve developed a lasting habit, start a new Challenge!

Q: I slipped. What do I do?
A: Use a free pass when you check in on the Foodstand app, and get back on track for the rest of the day. Don’t be hard on yourself, and remember—progress over perfection! Slipping means you’re trying, so be sure to congratulate yourself on the next healthy choice you make 🙂

Q: How can I make myself drink more water throughout the day?
A: Always keep a water bottle on hand. If water is in reach, you’re more likely to drink it. Try drinking sparkling water (seltzer) with pieces of chopped fruit and/or mint in it—it’s much more fun than plain water. Or make a cup of tea (it counts as water!) for a flavorful, warm drink on a cold day.

Q: What’s a good soda alternative?
A: We love sparkling water with fresh fruit! The fruit flavors the water, plus it’s nice and fizzy. Or if you need something slightly sweeter, pour a splash of 100% fruit juice in a glass, and top if off with sparkling water (just remember that fruit juice is liquid sugar, so be sure to dilute it with the water).

Q: How can I prevent myself from snacking before bed?
A: Make a cup of herbal tea in the evening so you have something to sip. Reading a good book, watching a movie, or playing a game can also be a good distraction. Also, be sure to fill up on veggies, protein and whole grains—if you eat well throughout the day and have a nutritious dinner, you won’t think as much about snacking before bed.

Q: Help! How do I curb my sugar cravings?
A: Quitting sugar is hard, so be sure to give yourself a pat on the back for joining the Challenge! First, make sure you eat a well-balanced diet throughout the day—fill up on vegetables, lean meat or fish, whole grains and healthy fats (such as nuts or avocado). These foods will help you kick your cravings by keeping you full longer, balancing your blood sugar levels, and giving you the fuel that your body needs. The first week is the most difficult, but it WILL get easier, so hang tight! And if you need something sweet, grab a piece of fresh or dried fruit (such as a date or dried mango) to satisfy your craving.

Click here to read more FAQs.

From the Team Uncategorized


November 3, 2016


We vote with our forks all year long, but come Tuesday, November 8th—be sure to vote with your ballot too (if you’re in the U.S.)! This election could have a huge impact on all of us—from health to the environment, minimum wage, and taxes too. Here are some quick tips to ensure your vote supports a better food system:


  • To ensure a healthier food system and to sustain our planet, we need to make some drastic changes, and our next President of the United States could play a vital role in determining our future in these areas. It’s fair to say that neither candidate is perfect when it comes to food and sustainability, but their differing stances on certain issues could take us in two very different directions. Check out The Food Revolution Network’s “Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: Where They Stand On Food” to make an educated vote.


  • Before you hit the voting booth, check out the 2016 Food Policy Action Scorecard to see how your Senators and Representatives voted on food policy to support a healthier food system.
  • Look up your sample ballot on Ballotpedia to see who’s running, and where they stand on important issues.


  • The Soda Tax is on the ballot in San Francisco, Oakland, and Albany, California and Boulder, Colorado. It’s an effective way to raise money for a community, and simultaneously make significant improvements on public health. Harvard researchers say Bay Area taxes alone could avert $55M in health costs over 10 years. Here’s More Evidence That Soda Taxes Cut Soda Drinking.
  • Talk to your friends and family in these cities and inform them about the tax. If someone replies, saying “it’s a regressive tax that disproportionately hurts poor people” you can respond by pointing out that diabetes is a regressive disease that now overwhelmingly effects low income families, and it is our government’s responsibility to protect the health of all citizens.
  • And finally, VOTE for the Soda Tax. If you’re in San Francisco, it’s Proposition V—vote YES!
Behind the Plate


October 24, 2016

Becky Ramsing, MPH, RDN is a Senior Program Officer with the Center for a Livable Future at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her work and interests cover the food system as a whole—from nutrition and public health, to farming and the environment, and have taken her all over the world.

Please tell us about Center for a Livable Future and your role.
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future works with students, educators, researchers, policymakers, advocacy organizations and communities to build a healthier, more equitable, and resilient food system. Our work is driven by the concept that public health, diet, food production and the environment are deeply interrelated and that understanding these relationships is crucial in pursuing a livable future.

I work with the Food Communities and Public Health program. I primarily oversee CLF’s role as science and technical advisors to the Meatless Monday campaign.

You were instrumental in formulating Foodstand’s ‘Eat Less Meat’ Challenge. Why is eating less meat important?
Meat consumption is a part of our culture. Yet, there are consequences to eating excessive amounts of meat. First of all, health. Diets high in animal products, particularly red meat and processed meats, are associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mortality. On the other hand, people who eat diets that are higher in vegetables and plant proteins generally have healthier weights and lower rates of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Then there is the environment. Producing meat (raising animals for meat) uses up disproportionate amounts of water, land and resources, compared to plant foods. It takes 5-8 times more water to produce a pound of beef compared to a pound of beans. Additionally, 30% of the arable land on the planet is used grow animal food and raise animals. Sadly, Amazon rainforests and other land valuable to the health of our planet are being destroyed for this cause. And, producing animals for meat generates large amounts of greenhouse gases–14.5% of all greenhouse gases globally in fact. The Paris Climate Deal outlines goals to limit growth in GHG’s to under 2%, yet even with major changes in energy, transportation and even farming practices, we can’t reach this goal unless we eat less meat.

Finally, producing the amount of meat people demand has caused a shift toward concentrated facilities in which animals are raised in crowded, dirty conditions that lead to contamination issues and also spur the over-use of medically important antibiotics.

Countries across the world are taking action on their nation’s food systems—for example, Brazil recently added the right to food to its constitution, and introduced enviable and comprehensive good eating guidelines that include everything from nutrition to sustainability. What efforts would you like to see the US take to help the American people eat better?
The U.S. needs to separate science from industry. The Guidelines should be based on the science of nutrition but also on health, climate, environment and animal welfare. Again it’s operating within a system rather than in a vacuum. Because ultimately, our health depends on a healthy and productive environment with clean water, healthy soil and breathable air. If we can’t produce and access quality food, our health will suffer.

How did you become interested in good eating?
I have been in the food and healthy eating field for nearly 30 years. I studied nutrition in college after deciding that it was a skill I could use to make lives better wherever I ended up. It has been a fun journey, especially since good food is often a part of it. During college I worked at a food magazine developing, testing and publishing recipes. While this was enjoyable, it was missing the connection of food and health, so after graduation I moved across the country for a dietetic internship. After training and working as a registered dietitian for several years in Boston, I moved to Tanzania (East Africa) to work with a relief and development agency. I ended up working with the national Nutrition Center focusing primarily on diabetes. Partnering with local health professionals, we developed a training project to help patients understand their disease and how they could eat to manage their blood sugar. Patient-centered care was a new concept for them, and it was exciting to see the nurses and docs realize that patients did better when they had a better understanding of their disease, which was especially important because of the lack of medication and blood testing supplies.

When we came back to the States, I went back to school to study public health (right here at Johns Hopkins) because I wanted to broaden my focus beyond nutrition. Since graduating in 1999 I have been involved in nutrition and health communication in the community, at the university level, in schools, work sites and with individuals. (I also spent another year in Uganda working with a local HIV/AIDs organization.) I have particularly enjoyed equipping families and teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to model and teach healthy eating habits, which most often includes hand on practice shopping and cooking.

Food systems became more alive to me while working with University of Maryland Extension. As I connected suburban residents with farms, children to the source of their food, and families to accessing and utilizing healthy foods, it was evident that the linkage to growing the food enhances the enjoyment and appreciation of food.  It actually takes nutrition out of the main conversation and puts food in the forefront. I find that when people make a food decision based on wholeness, taste and quality, it is ultimately a healthier decision!

While at UMD, I helped start and manage a project in Afghanistan helping marginalized women grow food for their families and income and also take responsibility for the whole process—planning, obtaining resources, managing a garden, preserving and cooking, pricing and marketing. Women became leaders and problem solvers in the food security realm. We also worked with universities in Ethiopia doing similar projects. The program has grown and has now been highlighted by USDA, USAID and several media outlets.

So, coming to CLF has been a culmination of sorts.  Here I can use knowledge, research and collaboration to educate about food and sustainability and to understand how to help people and their communities access fresh, healthy foods. This is especially important in the nutrition field. Registered dietitians are just now starting to understand that their recommendations are not in a vacuum. We need to think about the food we recommend, where it comes from, how it’s obtained, and how it fits in the larger food system.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop better, long-term eating habits?
Try new foods. Learn to enjoy vegetables. Cook at home. (I know that’s 3!)

Is there any aspect of your diet that you’ve been trying to improve? If so, how have you been trying to improve it?
I’m a distance runner, so I try to balance pre and post workout food to optimize muscle recovery and synthesis. It’s become a lot more important as I’ve gotten older and more injury prone. I spread out my protein, making sure I get more in the morning and after long runs. I also try to get a lot of phytochemicals from colorful fruits and vegetables. And, I focus on getting nitrates from foods such as beets and arugula to help with oxygen efficiency.

My worst habit is snacking. I keep nuts on hand because they fill me up. I also make sure I am not thirsty. Often I find we snack when what we really want is a drink of water!

What’s always in your fridge to keep you on track?
Almonds are my go-to snack! I also keep peanut butter, good whole grain bread, plain yogurt, and frozen berries. And, of course, lots of vegetables! (I garden and belong to a CSA.) I often roast a bunch of vegetables and use them throughout the week in salads, with grains, or in other recipes. I keep sparkling water on hand for a calorie free drink while I’m cooking and wanting to snack (or drink a glass of wine!).

What’s your favorite meatless dinner party recipe?
Polenta with red pepper sauce and grilled vegetables.

How has studying nutrition in conjunction with agriculture changed the way you envision a healthy food system?
I envision a healthy food system as one in which we can grow and produce diverse, nutritionally optimal foods. It’s not only efficiency or growing staples such as grains, corn, soy; it’s producing a variety of nutrients from a variety of vegetables, fruits, and even a small amount of meat, dairy and fish! And producing foods in a way that optimizes nutrients and the health of the soil without harming the environment or using unsafe chemicals. I also don’t see food as a single unit, or just something to get at the grocery store. When I recommend a food, I look at the environmental impact, the ease of access, even the packaging and processing involved.

Good eating habits need to be developed from an early age, not only to set the foundation for habits one keeps as adults, but also to stop type 2 diabetes in its tracks. What do you think is the best way to educate our children about food?
Get them cooking and trying new foods from the beginning! Let them make choices (but have them decide between two good choices). Don’t be overly strict, but model good eating and expose them to many types of foods early. Move beyond “kid-friendly” food because there really is no such thing! Kids can eat what adults eat in smaller portions!

And remember, you are raising children to be healthy adults—don’t fret if it doesn’t come together when they are 8. You are teaching them habits for a lifetime and modeling the ability to learn and try new flavors. That’s more valuable than always eating the right thing!

You worked on projects in Afghanistan and Ethiopia focusing on nutrition and food security. What’s one thing that experience taught you?
Even people who are poor and lacking resources need to figure out how to solve problems and look for the resources they need. If you just give them things, it fosters a sense of dependency that backfires when assistance is gone. Often people just need encouragement and reassurance that they are doing a great job!

What’s your favorite lesser-known vegetable, and how do you eat/prepare it?
I like Kohlrabi. It’s nice with roasted vegetables or in a salad. Fennel is also great thinly sliced in a salad. Not lesser-known, but I love roasted beets in a salad, on greens and even in chocolate cake!

Favorite meatless proteins?
Beans and lentils–from our years living in Africa, my family loves beans and rice! They are great on a budget and super easy to make. Lentils are really quick—only 30 minutes, so I can make them when I get home from work and serve them with rice or bread.

How do you manage to eat well when traveling or on-the-go?
I bring my lunch to work and carry snacks as much as possible on trips. When staying in a hotel, I will go to a grocery store to get yogurt and fruit for breakfast—or some peanut butter and bread. Then I can justify a better dinner. I avoid fast food as much as possible. When eating out, I look for vegetarian options with lots of vegetables. Ethnic restaurants usually have good options. I’m really happy when I can find a restaurant that serves fresh, locally sourced foods.

What’s your favorite part about what you do?
As a registered dietitian, I have been able to do a whole variety of things, which has been really fun. Right now I’m enjoying taking science and communicating it to people who are making decisions—whether it’s a major policy, a program, or what to put on the table for dinner!

Good eating isn’t about perfection, it’s about habits and progress. From time to time we all eat something we don’t feel so great about later. What is your advice for those oops moments?
If you backtrack or eat something you don’t feel great about, just make the next meal better.  Don’t try to punish yourself or make up for it, and don’t wait until tomorrow!

It’s not about perfection. It’s really about doing better. People get stuck when they think there’s only one right way to eat and then they don’t quite succeed. In fact, there are many ways you can obtain a healthy, balanced diet, and we have a lot of options here in the U.S. I find this is especially important for parents. If you are having trouble with family meals and manage to get a home cooked meal on the table twice in the week, that’s 2 days you didn’t go out! That’s progress!

Any parting words?
Eating less meat is not something people think about first when considering the environment or health, but reducing meat can open up so many new culinary possibilities and make a huge difference! I love that the food-world is catching on. Moving meat off the center of the plate has inspired some really delicious menus in restaurants, recipes, food blogs, etc. And it’s “icing on the cake” that it’s good for us and the planet!

Behind the Plate


October 10, 2016


Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, is a dietitian and health coach who focuses on whole-food-based, plant-centric nutrition. With a background in journalism, Andy’s interests in nutrition go beyond our daily practices into food politics, policy, and issues surrounding the way the food industry has shaped our relationship with food.

Please tell us about what you do.
My full-time job is in corporate wellness/corporate health coaching. Additionally, I am the strategic director of Dietitians For Professional Integrity, and I do freelance writing on various food system and nutrition topics.

How did you become interested in good eating?
My current interest in food developed slowly over time. The first significant event happened in 2004 when I watched Morgan Spurlock’s documentary, Super Size Me. I walked out of the theater wanting to learn more; so much more. Super Size Me went beyond the unhealthiness of fast food. It was also my first exposure to issues of food politics and the industry’s massive power and influence in shaping policy and the food environment.

I watched that documentary just days after graduating from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. That movie lit the initial spark that eventually led me to get a master’s degree in nutrition and become a registered dietitian.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Eat more plants. The average American falls woefully short of the daily recommended intake of fiber. That paints a very picture clear: we aren’t eating enough whole, plant-based foods (the only ones that contain fiber).

Talk a little bit about Dietitians for Professional Integrity.
Dietitians For Professional Integrity was founded in February of 2013. A few weeks prior, public health attorney Michele Simon published a report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ food industry ties that garnered national attention. As a vocal critic of these ties, I saw an important opportunity to mobilize like-minded dietitians and create an organized movement calling for sponsorship reform.

Since our inception, the topic of corporate sponsorships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics went from being relegated to the back of the closet to taking center stage as a “Mega Topic” at last year’s House of Delegates meeting. Additionally, the Academy created a sponsorship advisory task force. It’s progress.

How do you define good food?
There are many different definitions depending on the context. Above all else, good food promotes health and nourishes. While that relates to a food’s nutritional profile, it has nothing to do with one specific nutrient. Avocados, high in fat, promote health. So do pears, which are 96 percent carbohydrate. “Low-fat” and “low-carb” miss the point. “Low-processed” is more important.

Good food should also promote the health of our planet and the health of workers. A nutritious salad made with tomatoes picked by laborers who are not paid fairly is not “good food”.  Neither is a decadent and delicious chocolate bar made from beans picked by child slaves.

Countries across the world are taking action on their nation’s food systems—for example, Brazil recently added the right to food to its constitution, and introduced enviable and comprehensive good eating guidelines that include everything from nutrition to sustainability. What is one policy effort you would you like to see the US take to help the American people eat better?
Get corporate money out of politics. Many of the policy decisions that influence what we eat are voted on by politicians that receive financial contributions from powerful food industry lobbies. It’s a tangled web, and I can’t say that I have a step-by-step plan of how to do that. Voting for politicians who do not have a record of being in the pocket of industries is a good start.

What’s always in your fridge?
A variety of plant-based milks (the differences in flavors and textures make some a better fit for coffee, and others perfect for cooking oatmeal), broccoli, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and ground flax seeds.

Is there any aspect of your diet that you’ve been trying to improve? If so, how have you been trying to improve it?
I have become more mindful of my omega-3 intake. I realized that I ate almonds and pistachios on a daily basis. Of course, they are healthful, but I noticed that they displaced plant-based omega-3 fats. So, I now have two to three tablespoons of hemp, chia, and/or ground flax several times a week. They are so easy to sprinkle over a variety of dishes.

How do you incorporate a variety of vegetables into your diet?
The key, as I tell my coachees, is to make vegetables taste good so you crave them. So many people equate vegetables with mushy peas and carrots or bland salads. Blegh. I love lightly steamed broccoli with a drizzle of hemp oil and a few shakes of nutritional yeast and cayenne pepper, roasted root vegetables (the caramelization brings out their flavors, and a pinch of salt adds the perfect contrast), dipping cucumbers in hummus, adding arugula to homemade pesto, and sautéeing lacinato kale in olive oil and garlic (goes great with whole wheat pasta).

Good eating habits need to be developed from an early age, not only to set the foundation for the habits one maintains as an adult, but also to stop childhood-onset type 2 diabetes in its tracks. What do you think is the best way to educate our children about food?
Lead by example. I recently had a coachee who was in awe that, once she made it a point to serve vegetables with family meals, her toddlers started eating vegetables. She told me she didn’t think much of it before because she didn’t think her children would want to eat them. By simply offering vegetables with meals—and never requiring her children eat them or bribing them with dessert—she normalized the behavior.

Good eating is more than what you eat, it’s also being mindful about how you eat it. What is your favorite way to enjoy a good meal?
Of course a meal with a few close friends (I don’t like large group meals) is always fun. That said, I live by myself, so I’m totally guilty of eating dinner while catching up on vacuous reality television (sometimes it’s Rachel Maddow though, so cut me some slack).

How do you manage to eat well when traveling or on-the-go?
I usually travel to large cities where healthful food is widely and easily available, so I can’t say I have to put forth a lot of effort in that sense. If anything, the part that requires some forethought is airports, but I bring snacks with me. My go-to travel snacks include roasted chickpeas, low-sugar snack bars, and dark chocolate.

What’s your favorite part about what you do?
Seeing the tangible results of improving one’s diet. I have been a health coach for almost five years and can think of many people who, as a result of simply eating better, improved all sorts of biomarkers: triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. Many of them even halved their medication dosages or gotten completely off of them.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop better, longterm eating habits?
Identify one particular habit that you think currently gets in the way of your health goals, and focus exclusively on that goal—on a daily basis—for at least 60 days. Then, and only then, should you even begin to entertain adding another goal. One very common mistake many people make is simultaneously trying to eat more fiber, cut back on sodium, cut back on added sugar, and go from a sedentary lifestyle to working out six days a week. It’s a recipe for frustration.

Good eating isn’t about perfection, it’s about habits and progress. From time to time we all eat something we don’t feel so great about later. What is your advice for those oops moments?
I always tell my coachees to keep the 80/20 or 90/10 rule in mind. What ultimately determines your health is what you do 80-90 percent of the time. That leaves the remaining 10-20 percent for special occasions, celebrations, indulgences, and times when your life gets turned a little upside down (consider how much your eating gets disrupted when you move, for example). If you want to eat well 99% of the time, more power to you. But that isn’t the only way. When you think of the big picture, you realize that enjoying a cupcake at a baby shower is a non-issue. Of course, I also think it is important to differentiate between savoring and truly enjoying treats, as opposed to turning to those foods to fill emotional voids.

Behind the Plate


September 19, 2016
Photo credit: Bill Hayes

Photo credit: Bill Hayes

Professor Marion Nestle teaches in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. She is an internationally known and acclaimed public health advocate, and has authored a number of award-winning books such as Food Politics, Why Calories Count, Eat Drink Vote, and Soda Politics.

Want to meet her in person? Please join us tomorrow night (Tuesday, September 20th) in NYC for a riveting book chat with the one and only Dr. Marion Nestle! We’ll be discussing the soda industry, sugar, who’s doing what, and what we can do to change the paradigm. In the meantime, you can check out Marion and follow her on Twitter @marionnestle to whet your food politics appetite. See you tomorrow!

Please tell us about what you do.
I teach, give lectures, do research, and write about issues related to food politics.

How did you first become interested in good eating?
I learned to love food when I discovered how terrific it tastes when fresh. I’ve told this story many times. I was at a summer camp run by a fabulous cook—everything she made was wonderful and based on produce from a large kitchen garden. It was my turn to pick vegetables for dinner. I had never tasted string beans straight from the vine before—a revelation!

What’s one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop better, longterm eating habits?
Eating healthfully is not all that hard: eat vegetables and fruits, balance calories, don’t eat too much junk food and enjoy what you eat!

What is the main thing we should know about big food, and how it controls what we eat?
Food companies are businesses, not social service agencies. Their primary job is to sell their products and make as much profit on them as possible.

Countries across the world are taking action on their nation’s food systems—what is one thing you would like to see the US do to help the American people eat better?
Put some restrictions on marketing to children.

How do you define good food?
Minimally processed, as fresh as possible, grown sustainably.

You take on the soda industry in your book Soda Politics. Do you think the soda industry can change for the better?
Yes, but whether it will is another matter. It could stop marketing to children, stop marketing to minorities, stop fighting public health initiatives, and stop lobbying against public health measures—for starters.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Smaller portions! Understand that larger portions have more calories.

What’s always in your fridge?
Milk for coffee, cheese, peanut butter, eggs, lemons, and whatever fruits and vegetables I’ve just picked up.

Is there any aspect of your diet that you’ve been trying to improve? If so, how have you been trying to improve it?
I follow my own dietary advice above. It leaves lots of room for pleasure.

How do you incorporate a variety of vegetables into your diet?
Fortunately, I love salads.

Good eating is more than what you eat, it’s also being mindful about how you eat it. What is your favorite way to enjoy a good meal?
Much of my social life involves dinners with friends and colleagues.

How do you manage to eat well when traveling or on-the-go?
It’s always possible to find something good and healthy on the go, even at airports. As I said—fortunately, I love salads.

What’s your favorite part about what you do?
I think I’m so fortunate to have a job that pays me to teach, do research, and write about food and food politics. I love doing all of that.

Good eating isn’t about perfection, it’s about habits and progress. From time to time we all eat something we don’t feel so great about later. What is your advice for those oops moments?
Enjoy them!

Behind the Plate


July 25, 2016
Photo credit: Erik Nordlund

Photo credit: Erik Nordlund

Tristram Stuart, Founder of Feedback and Toast Ale, has been passionate about food waste from an early age. His Ted Talk: The global food waste scandal has been viewed over a million times, and his environmental work has had an impact in dozens of countries worldwide—both Tristram’s words and actions speak loud and clear.

You have been passionate about food waste since you were 15—you bought pigs and fed them using the scraps from your local grocery and bakery. What about this experience made you realize that food waste is such a significant issue?
I realized that most of the food I was giving to my pigs was in fact fit for human consumption. It was not just scraps like vegetable peelings—it was perfectly fresh, surplus meals from my school cafeteria, bread from the local bakery, and even supermarket products taken off the shelf for stock rotation reasons rather than because the food was no longer good. So I ate it with my pigs. I was environmentally aware. I knew that deforestation, mostly to turn virgin forests into farmland for food production, threatens humanity and many other species with extinction—risking catastrophe. The idea that we were throwing away good food was maddening and yet the solution was so simple—eat it.

In 2009 you founded Feedback to help combat the global food waste crisis. Please tell us about Feedback.
Feedback attacks food waste at every level of the food supply chain, from farm to consumer. We use the principles of the food waste pyramid, a hierarchy of strategies that prioritizes waste reduction and elimination. If food surplus is unavoidable, it must be kept in the food supply chain through charitable redistribution, upcycling food to a new product, or, if not fit for human consumption, using it to feed livestock. Only after all those options are exhausted should we turn to compost and anaerobic digestion.

Feedback has three core campaigns. Feeding the 5000 raises awareness and galvanizes public action to reduce food waste and use surplus better. The Gleaning Network keeps farm-level food surplus within the food system, and our investigative work looks at causes of food waste on farms in food-exporting countries. The Pig Idea is campaigning to change legislation that prevents catering surplus being fed to livestock. Feedback has also set up the Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network which helps innovators find new ways, or popularize old ones, to use surplus food.

What is Feeding the 5000, and how did it come about?
The first Feeding the 5000, in London in 2009, was meant to be a one-off event. We decided we would make an attention-grabbing statement about food waste by feeding over 5000 people with ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste. But it created new, powerful coalitions with concrete actions to fight food waste. It was too powerful a tool to do just once. So we set up Feedback, with Feeding the 5000 as our flagship campaign. Feeding the 5000 has now been replicated in over 30 major cities in every continent except Antarctica.

Food waste statistics are staggering—over $218 billion spent growing, transporting and disposing of wasted food; and 63 million tons of food wasted annually. But many individuals are unaware. What needs to be done to get the word out about this significant global issue?
The media, including social media, can have an incredibly powerful impact. We need to get everyone talking about the financial, environmental and social costs of food production and waste. Initiatives like Foodstand are a great example.

What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into your daily life?
I am a freegan, or ‘dumpster-diver’ as it’s also known. Freeganism—eating food that otherwise would be thrown away—is a double attack on our insanely inefficient and wasteful food system. Firstly, it reduces demand for extra food production whilst reducing waste. Secondly, it is a delicious protest that raises awareness about the simplicity of the solution—we just need to eat what we produce.

Do you think that food waste is the largest issue currently surrounding our food system?
The largest issue facing our food system is demand-driven deforestation. It explodes my mind to acknowledge the fact that we are turning eons-old bastions of biodiversity and cultural diversity, hyper-effective climate change buffers, deep reservoirs of water and invaluable natural capital into farmland to produce food that is later discarded. Reducing food waste is just one bullet that we need to use to stop this.

We do not need to dramatically increase food production worldwide, despite the conventional wisdom that says we do. Population growth is slowing down. The real driver of the projections showing increased demand for food is that as people’s incomes increase, so does their demand for meat and dairy. So another bullet in our arsenal must be to move towards a more plant-intensive diet.

What I like about fighting food waste is that not only does it help us fight deforestation and climate change, it also changes people’s consciousness that we can win this fight. Sometimes the fight seems hopeless, but something about food waste makes folks rethink our food habits. Once you have people onboard with the idea that we don’t need to cut down virgin forests to produce food that we’re just going to throw away anyway, they may be more receptive to the idea that the ultimate problem is actually the deforestation itself.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If the future President were to consider food waste solutions, how should they be addressed?
Use the USDA and FDA to standardize confusing expiration date labels so that consumers aren’t throwing away food needlessly. A study in the UK estimated that date label confusion drives 20% of avoidable consumer food waste. Encourage supermarkets to be transparent about their in-store and supply chain waste. Encourage all supermarkets—and cafeterias and stadiums and music festivals and restaurants—to connect with food redistributors to make use of their surplus. Use the USDA and FDA to standardize across all states one set of rules for using surplus food to safely and sustainably feed livestock. And finally, tax food waste.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Buy, grow or forage more plants and eat them while they are deliciously fresh, or preserve, or give to others to eat.


How do you define good food?
I love food that tastes amazing and has a story. I recently cooked a stew of road-kill deer, foraged mushrooms, waste-fed pork, and homegrown vegetables. That particular meal had basically zero impact in terms of driving demand for food—it was “off-grid” if you will. There was something about the taste of the stew that made it special even if I had not told you the stories of the ingredients, but the story was eye opening for many of the people I cooked it for.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
That first food ‘waste’ meal I shared with my pigs was beautiful fresh bread from my local baker. For me it is symbolic of the food waste problem, and so perhaps kismet that I recently established Toast Ale—a beer made with surplus bread from sandwich manufacturers that would otherwise have been wasted, that gives all profits to Feedback.

Date labeling laws are key to food waste prevention. We understand bills were recently introduced to standardize these laws—are we at a potential turning point in food waste prevention?
Expiration date label standardization is a no-brainer. It’s ridiculous that different companies use different labels to mean the same thing, or use the same wording to mean different things, depending on the context. Of course consumers are confused into throwing away good food unnecessarily. So expiration date label standardization is very low-hanging fruit in the fight against food waste. We hope that a win on this issue will create momentum to fight for food waste reduction across other fronts, too.

Donation is a key food waste recovery tactic. Why is it so hard to donate food?
Cold-chain logistics can be an issue, although this complication is why we advocate for pre-established links between those with surplus and those who can redistribute it. But sometimes supermarkets or other companies with surplus food don’t have the direct incentive to manage the logistics of setting up the connection in the first place. It is our job as campaigners and consumers to make sure they have the incentive to donate food. We can create that incentive in the form of public relations. We should shun supermarkets and restaurant chains who have not connected with food redistribution organizations, and we should celebrate those that are going above and beyond to make sure that 100% of their surplus is used.

What are some of the most astonishing items you’ve found wasted behind grocery stores during your “bin inspections”?
Fresh sushi. It’s resource-intensive to produce, either involving the fishing of wild stocks or the use of resource-intensive fish farms, and sometimes involving the use of refrigerated air-freight. Yet there’s a lot of sushi behind grocery stores.

What is your favorite meal to prepare?
Anything that involves surplus, foraged or homegrown ingredients that can be shared with friends and family.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’m writer who has become a campaigner. I first wrote The Bloodless Revolution in 2006, followed by Waste: Uncovering the global food scandal in 2009 (which led me to organize the first Feeding the 5000 and set up Feedback). I would like to write another book.

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for / how do you use it?
The problem with fridges is that they hide food away where we forget about it, like a tomb where food is left to rot. I’m much keener on preserving food in Kilner or Mason jars where the autumn harvest is bottled away—plums, cherries, quinces, apples, pears, tomatoes all in a colorful array, stacked shelves—reminding you to eat them up throughout the year.

Your good food wish?
That we value to the food we produce and stop wasting it.

Behind the Plate


July 18, 2016

Photo credit: Justen Clay

Justin Aiello @olivettefarm is the Farm Manager at Olivette Farm, a biodiverse, organic vegetable farm located just north of downtown Asheville, North Carolina. His journey to farming has taken some twists and turns—from geography to landscaping, and from Georgia to the Adirondack Mountains of New York, and finally to North Carolina.

You have a B.S. in Geography—farming and geography are strongly linked, but what prompted you to become a farmer?
I believe there’s a strong and essential link that we as humans have with the land. As a result, I’ve also always loved working in the dirt. Studying geography provided me with insight into how we impact the land for better or worse. A few years back, I saw a documentary about young farmers called Grow and was so inspired that I quit my landscaping job to take on a farm apprenticeship. This career shift turned out to be the perfect combination of getting my hands dirty, growing beautiful and nutritious things, and doing my small part to heal the earth around me.

How do you define good food?
I define good food as food that is grown or produced in a way that highly values the land, the labor involved, and the people who will eventually eat it.

You farm organically at Olivette Farm. What are your personal beliefs about organic vs. conventional farming methods?
I believe that organic should be the only option—after all, it was the original way to farm! I think that farming using organic and sustainable methods ensures that we are harvesting clean, chemical-free and nutrient-dense food. It also means that we are good stewards of the land by improving our soil health, providing habitats for beneficial insects and animals, and not contributing to hazardous runoff into our local waterways.

Big Ag says that organic farms have less yield and incur problems with parasites etc., yet we also hear that this is untrue. What are the misconceptions around organic farming, and are there any growing difficulties you face because you farm organically?
Big Ag definitely does a lot of smooth-talking to make it seem like organic farming is not a viable solution to our food system needs. I think that lack of education on how food is grown and where food comes from causes a lot of people to think that we are unable to fight off disease or pests, and therefore have lower yields. The truth is that we generally have high yields and are able to use methods to control disease and pests—like crop rotation and cover cropping—that don’t involve the heavy utilization of chemicals. I think that everyone should spend at least one week on an organic farm in order to gain a better understanding of where their food comes from.

Please tell us about your CSA. Is this the best way for people to get your produce?
We grow over 60 different types of vegetables, herbs and microgreens at Olivette. Our CSA members get a weekly bag of seasonal vegetables for either 14 or 28 weeks throughout the season. The items in our CSA bags vary each week. I think our CSA is the best way to purchase our produce if you want to try everything that we have to offer, and also get outside of your comfort zone by trying new and unusual (but delicious) vegetables. We take our CSA members on a seasonal food journey along with the farm!

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Getting to interact with our customers and see them enjoy what we’ve grown is absolutely the most rewarding part of farming. Food has the special ability to break down barriers and to connect people from every walk of life and perspective! I love how farming is a community-oriented act.

What’s the most difficult aspect of your job?
I think one of the most difficult parts of farming is the long hours that I have to work. Farming is a never-ending job—there’s always a long list of things to be done, and we just decide to find stopping points at the end of each day. This is especially true during the summer. However, I have to say that all of the hard work and long hours are well worth it at the end of the day.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I think one food issue that I would love to hear the candidates speak more about is food security. I mean this in a few ways—creating easier and more affordable access to fresh, nutritious food; increasing funding to help small farmers grow their operations; and inspiring new farmers who hope to begin farming. I lived in Atlanta for a few years prior to moving to Asheville, and food deserts are a huge problem in so many places around the city.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Ditch the processed foods! I think replacing processed foods with fresh, non-processed options can do wonders for the general health of our population.

You grow a wide variety of produce. What are your three favorites?
I love them all! However, if I have to pick three I would say: sugar snap peas in the spring, Sun Gold tomatoes in the summer, and nothing beats sweet baby carrots after the first fall frost!

And how do you eat or cook them?
I put pea shoots in just about anything—sandwiches, salads, tacos… I also lightly wilt them in a pan and add them to pasta. Sun Gold tomatoes are like candy, so you can often catch me in the field eating them raw, or if they make it home I’ll blister them and make a warm BLT or a sweet broth when I have time. You can also find me eating carrots in the field, but here is a recipe from a friend of ours for Roasted Carrots and Pesto Yogurt Sauce. It’s a favorite of mine.

We just completed our second #NoFoodWaste campaign in June. What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into the farm?
I love #NoFoodWaste! One of the biggest things I do on the farm is try to use any edible parts of the plant that we can—whether that means harvesting and cooking the broccoli greens off our broccoli plants, keeping the roots on our bunching onions, or keeping the greens on our carrots and encouraging our customers to make pesto with them. Any waste we do create from harvesting and processing our vegetables goes into our compost pile which returns to our fields to help build our soil and help grow more nutritious food for the next season.


Talk to us about microgreens.
Microgreens are very young mini-vegetables and herbs. Most microgreens are only 8 to 14 days old when they’re harvested. Microgreen options are almost endless, but some of the more popular varieties are radishes, kale, arugula, broccoli and cabbage. We grow our microgreens in trays inside of our greenhouse with our own special mix of soil. They may be small, but they pack huge flavor and are incredibly nutrient-dense. They can be used in salads, soups, pasta, sandwiches, smoothies or even be eaten by themselves.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
My first food memory is throwing a bowl of split pea soup at my grandmother (sorry Grandma)! But my most memorable food interaction has been eating arepas with my extended family. My mother is from Venezuela and every time we go visit her side of the family we eat some of the most amazing home-cooked meals. It’s the first time I can really remember trying something new and truly loving it. We were on a family vacation in Venezuela when I was just 11—we sat down for breakfast in my Uncle’s house and had fresh lime juice from the tree in the back yard, fresh fruit on the table from the local roadside stands, and arepas—a huge plate of them! They were unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. I can’t remember how many I ate that morning, but I can tell you that I ate a lot of them and was sure to ask for them every morning on that trip.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t a farmer I think I would want to run an animal rescue organization. I absolutely love animals—we have two very spoiled dogs and love being with most any animal. I think rescuing animals is so important and not just for typical household pets. There are a lot of farm animals out there that have been abused and/or neglected that need good homes.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
A few things that are always in our fridge are pea shoots, a few bags of leftover greens from market, any of our root vegetables that are in season, blue cheese, and some local beer (because a farmer needs to relax)! Our pea shoots get thrown into just about everything, including all of the pasta that we make for dinner multiple times a week. We love to roast our root veggies at home and add whichever greens we have on hand. Lately, it has been roasted carrots in a warm kale salad.

Favorite breakfast to get you through a long day on the farm?
I’m constantly eating and snacking throughout the day, but my go-to breakfast as of late is a bowl of oats with nuts and fruit, and a green smoothie. That usually gets me through the first few hours of work.

Favorite meal?
Our favorite meal lately is French Onion Tart from blogger and cookbook author Mimi Thorisson.

Your good food wish?
My good food wish is for fresh, nutritious and affordable food to be made available to everyone, and for farmers to have greater support and access to land.

Behind the Plate


July 11, 2016
Photo credit: Caitlin Riley

Photo credit: Caitlin Riley

Kristen Beddard @KristenBeddard is the queen of kale in France—she reintroduced kale to French farmers! One thing led to another, and The Kale Project is now a bi-lingual blog that teaches about kale, helps locate it in France, and provides recipe inspiration too.

Tell us about launching The Kale Project.
When we first moved to Paris, I could not find a job because my French skills were not that great. I moved only knowing “Bonjour!” I also could not find kale, and with a background in advertising, came up with the idea to grow kale in Paris. The initial goal was to find one farmer to grow it and one restaurant to use it, and then a handful of people to buy it, with the hope that the farmer would want to grow it again. I didn’t have a business plan but knew that using digital media would be important to help spread the word. I wasn’t trying to change French food culture and didn’t approach the project as if I was “teaching” the French anything about food—it was only adding another cabbage to the mix of cabbages already available.

What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between the eating habits of Americans and the eating habits of the French?
Le snacking! The French really do not snack except for one time a day in the afternoon. People aren’t always eating on the street—meaning there is a time and a place for meals, which ultimately makes them more enjoyable. Food is not only approached with regard to calories or with the idea of “what can it do for me?” It’s approached as something that gives pleasure. Wine, cheese, butter and bread are alright because it’s all about moderation.

Your family has an organic farm in the US—Lady Moon Farms. They grow kale. How has your family responded to your ambitious quest for kale abroad?
They have been supportive. My uncle is the founder of Lady Moon and gave me a lot of advice and tips for kale cultivation.

You launched in 2012. Tell us about what your project has become, and how it has morphed over time.
The project has changed so much over time and I’m happy to say that at this point, I don’t do as much anymore because the original mission of reintroducing kale has worked! Kale, when in season, is now available at outdoor markets and grocery stores and is grown by both small and large producers. Over time, the project led to a few writing projects which is where I have focused a lot of my time over the past year and a half.

You recently wrote a book, Bonjour Kale. Did you have any idea that your quest for kale would turn into a memoir?
Never! There was a New York Times article that ran in 2013 about the project, and from there I was approached by a few literary agents. The idea of doing an American in Paris memoir appealed to me, so I decided to try it out. It has been a really challenging process, but I’ve learned so much.

How do you define good food?
Fresh ingredients that are home-cooked and eaten around a table with friends and family. And of course wine.

What was your most challenging moment as a new resident of Paris, trying to introduce a forgotten vegetable to the population?
There are a lot to choose from because there were always a lot of ups and downs. I was not always great at this but remembering that I was reintroducing kale to a different culture made sure I thought about how the French would perceive things versus how I would assume an American audience would. It seems like a no-brainer and it was a really good way to further immerse myself in their culture.

What has been the most rewarding aspect?
The people I’ve met have been amazing. I did a lot of networking for the project and it really helped create my own community in the city. I talk a lot about this in the book, but by reaching out and meeting new people, Paris quickly felt like home.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
I am really passionate about how we can make America’s youth healthier, and it is an area I would like to work in when we move back to the US. I would like to know what the plan is to continue the First Lady’s work with school lunch, and how we can get cooking back into the schools. I still had home economics in middle school, but we made things like beef jerky and Jell-o molds, which are not dishes that you actually cook for lunch or dinner. I think kids need to learn how to cook simple things with ingredients that can be bought on a limited income.

What is your favorite way to eat kale?
I grew up eating lightly steamed kale but now love kale salads.


What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I didn’t grow up drinking milk, so when I was three and four, I can remember my mom letting me put watered-down grape juice in a bowl of whole-wheat Oatios while watching Mr. Rogers. I can still picture myself trying to walk from the kitchen to the living room with the bowl, trying not to spill it.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
Years ago, I tried to make turkey meatballs from a cousin’s recipe. I’m not sure what I did wrong but there was too much liquid in the mixture and it would not stick together in individual balls. Since then, I’ve successfully made patties of all kinds, but if my husband comes home and sees something like this on the stove, he reaches for the phone to order takeout.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
Oatmeal, quinoa, millet mix with almond milk and a touch of ghee.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
Hard cheese like aged comté, gruyère and parmesan. Flat-leaf parsley. Dijon mustard. We take advantage of the amazing cheeses in France and sometimes have a bite or two over a glass of wine while making dinner. I like to add a few shavings of parmesan to salads. I add chopped parsley to soups, pastas and grains. Dijon is great for salad dressings.

Top three herbs, in order of importance?
Flat leaf parsley, rosemary, cilantro.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
I would love to have dinner with Cecile Richards. Her resilience is extraordinary. I would let her choose the place to be able to experience and talk about what kind of food she likes best.

What’s your favorite indulgent treat?
hocolate covered pretzels.

Your good food wish?
That every child has a healthy meal every day, filled with fresh vegetables and fruits—and that they enjoy it! Encouraging our youth to eat better is not going to happen overnight, but will take a generation, so we need to keep trying!

Behind the Plate


July 4, 2016
Photo credit: Tara Donna

Photo credit: Tara Donne

Olivia Parker is the Program Manager at Edible Schoolyard NYC‘s Public School 216 in Brooklyn. And she takes Know Your Farmer to a whole new level—Olivia’s school-aged kids are farming for themselves! Right here in New York.

For those unfamiliar with Edible Schoolyard, please tell us about the organization, and some of its history.
Edible Schoolyard NYC partners with public schools to transform the hearts, minds, and eating habits of young New Yorkers through garden and kitchen classes integrated into the school day. Our vision is that all children are educated and empowered to make healthy food choices for themselves, their communities, and their environment, actively achieving a just and sustainable food system for all.

What do you grow in the garden? How is it used at the school?
We grow over 80 varieties of fruits and vegetables, annuals and perennials, in our half-acre garden. We have an herb garden, an orchard, a medicinal garden, and several vegetable beds. We grow some pretty interesting crops, including artichokes and edible weeds like lamb’s quarters and burdock. The majority of our produce goes to garden and kitchen classes. We teach all 700 students at P.S. 216 twice a month in garden, and once a month in kitchen. Extra produce is sold at our farm stand and we do our best to also feature it in the cafeteria.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
These days, we aren’t as connected to one another as we used to be, especially now that technology has taken over and consumed our lives. I think if everyone shared meals with other people, we’d be taking steps in the right direction. It seems like a reasonable start.

How have you seen ESY impact the Gravesend community?
Where do I begin? Our students are so knowledgeable! They take ownership of the garden and the kitchen classroom. Students who may struggle in their regular classroom settings come to garden and kitchen classes and demonstrate a level of focus and attention that I sometimes don’t even see in adults! Grandparents pick up their grandkids after school and come hang out in the garden. They tell us how the garden and our chickens remind them of their childhoods and the countries they emigrated from. They feel more connected to their grandchildren who have a garden that they can call their own. That multigenerational connection is heartwarming.

Our farm stand and events have also influenced the community. Students and their families visit us every week to buy produce from the garden. Local restaurants purchase our produce too. We host free community events four times a year for our students, their families, and everyone else in the community (including children who attend other schools).

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
I was the kid who brought leftover wiener schnitzel and a lemon wedge for lunch in elementary school. I had a pretty good idea early on that I was eating different foods than my peers. It was embarrassing at the time, but now I’m proud of it!

How did you come to work at ESY?
I grew up in Marin County, California—very close to the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley. I have known about the program for quite some time, and, like many others, was inspired by Alice Waters. I have always loved working with children and have enjoyed eating and cooking from a young age. It seemed natural to bring the two together. When I was in high school, people asked me what my dream job was, and my response was, “I’d like to work for Edible Schoolyard.”

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
It’s hard to only pick one! I’ll keep it very broad… Big business has ruled the food industry for years. The government should take responsibility for the nation’s declining health by disallowing lobbying of government officials and marketing to our children.

How do you define good food?
Good food is clean, nourishing, and prepared with love.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Interacting with our students and their families is the most rewarding part of the job. Knowing that our students are asking for more fruits and vegetables at home, showing an interest in gardening and cooking, making our recipes at home, and are more engaged in school because of it, is amazing.


Watching seeds turn into food is a powerful experience. What’s it like to work with children and see how inspired they become?
Working with our students is incredibly gratifying. We do this work every day, yet we forget how amazing it is that we can plant some seeds, take care of them, and watch as they produce delicious fruits and vegetables. Our students remind us just how unbelievable that is. Their inspiration inspires us! That’s the beauty of the job—we get that kind of gratification every day.

We just completed our second #NoFoodWaste campaign in June. What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into your business?
We have a big composting operation and teach our students the importance of recycling our food scraps. Our students know that our fruits and vegetables are strong and delicious because they are rooted in good soil. That soil is healthy because it is made up of the nutrients that come from our food scraps. We also taught our students how to make stock from our food scraps when we made potato leek soup this winter!

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
I always have eggs and jalapeños in my fridge. No matter the season, I always need my jalapeños. I am obsessed with spicy foods and love the flavor of them. They go with everything! Eggs are also very versatile. I love them soft boiled, hard boiled, and fried. I put them on top of vegetables, salads, and bread.

What was your biggest #foodfail?
I am so bad at baking. My mom and I have tried to make pies on several occasions. The filling ALWAYS separates from the crust. What’s the deal?!

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
Julia Child, without a doubt. I need to perfect my impersonation of her. It would only be appropriate to dine together in the south of France.

What’s your go-to breakfast?
Lately, oatmeal with sesame seeds, nori, and soy sauce. I love simple and savory breakfasts!

What inspires you to teach about food and gardening?
In school, we learn how to read, write, and do math, and we use those skills every day. Another important element of our lives that we don’t learn in school is how our food grows and how to prepare it. We do not know where our food comes from or how it grows, and do not have the tools to make good, healthy choices when it comes to our diet. I aspire to change that.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be a therapist. I enjoy working with people!

Your good food wish?
I wish that every child had access to clean and nutritious food.

Behind the Plate


June 27, 2016


Eva Fowler, Associate Director of Programs & Communications at ReFED, is working hard at making #NoFoodWaste a reality on a national level. ReFED has set the Roadmap for decreasing food waste, and it’s time for all of us to jump on board.

What is ReFED, and how did it come to be?
ReFED is a non-profit collaboration of over 30 different businesses, non-profits, foundations, investors, innovators and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste at scale. It was started by Betsy and Jesse Fink about two years ago, who began to notice how much beautiful, nutritious food was going to waste on their farm. They quickly realized that there was a large gap between the awareness of food waste and action on the issue, so they rallied a dozen other like-minded foundations and decided to invest in developing a strategic roadmap for action.

Tell us about the Roadmap.
ReFED set out to identify the most cost-effective and high impact interventions to reduce waste, understand which stakeholders needed to be around the table, and quantify the financing needed to make it happen. In March of 2016, ReFED launched the first-ever national economic baseline study of U.S. food waste with a clear path for multistakeholder action to reduce waste by 20% over the next decade.

Do you think that food waste is the largest issue currently surrounding our food system?
Yes! We waste 40% of all food we grow here in the U.S. (and globally). It costs us $218 billion—1.3% of our GDP—to grow, process, transport and dispose of this food that is never eaten. Food waste is an absurd and unnecessary reality of our food system highlighting major inefficiency.

While food waste is a costly, highly complex and integrated problem, it has the ability to solve three major issues we face at both at the national and global scale. Food waste reduction helps alleviate hunger by getting food to those in need, it offers economic opportunity by creating new jobs and stimulating new innovative businesses, and helps protect our environment by reducing green house gas emissions and reducing water, land and fertilizer use.

Food issues have barely made it into the race for President. If the future President were to consider food waste solutions, how should they be addressed?
In September, the EPA and USDA announced the first-ever goal to reduce U.S. food waste by 50% over the next 15 years—in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the same target. The new administration should continue to support these two agencies efforts and the businesses, non-profits and others who have also signed onto this important goal. Food waste is unique because it is a bipartisan issue that everyone can get behind. Everyone wants to alleviate hunger, create jobs, and protect our environment, so I am optimistic that the spotlight on this issue will only increase in importance.

What’s one of your first (and most memorable) interactions with food?
My first and most memorable interaction with food was with my great-aunt Josie. She  was a holocaust survivor from Austria so she had the ultimate “food is love” mentality given the hardship and uncertainty she experienced for many decades of her life. She also had purple hair and didn’t know it (I think she meant to dye it black). My mom would actually stomp her feet like an angry bull if we kids ever giggled at the sight of it, especially when it glimmered in the sunshine like a cloud of cotton candy. Anyway, she would make her “Josie cookies”—star shaped butter cookies with chocolate chips and jam, pack them gently in wax paper and Tupperware and present them proudly to us when she came to visit. I learned recently that these cookies are actually linzer tarts, but in my mind, these are uniquely “Josie cookies”.

The Roadmap outlines an $18 billion investment that will result in over $100 billion in value over a decade. What do you think it will take for people to bite the bullet and institute change?
The Roadmap outlines a suite of 27 cost-effective, scalable solutions to divert nearly 13 million tons of food from landfills and farms. To implement them would take an $18 billion investment, just 1/10th of a penny for every pound diverted, that would result in $100 billion in benefits to business, consumers and tax payers, over the next decade. Beyond this $100 billion, implementing the Roadmap is estimated to generate 15,000 new jobs; annually it would increase consumer spending power by $6 billion, business profits by up to $2 billion, double recovered food donations to nonprofits (1.8 billion meals), reduce up to 1.5% of freshwater use (1.6 trillion gallons), and avoid nearly 18 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

We have identified four cross-cutting actions needed to truly institute change:
1) financing from corporate, government and philanthropic sources
2) commonsense policy that makes food donation easier, standardizes food safety regulations and stimulates investment recycling infrastructure
3) business model and technology innovation
4) consumer education to activate a shift in consumer behavior around waste reduction

Date labeling standardization is one of the most cost-effective prevention solutions in the Roadmap. Please tell us a little about date labelling, what currently exists, and what needs to change.
In the absence of federal regulation, it has been up to the states to develop food label laws, and this has resulted in the variety of labeling jargon that leads us to question whether our milk is still good, or if the chicken has taken a turn for the worse. But in general, these dates do not indicate food safety, and instead show the manufacturer’s expectation for how long the food will taste its best. To make things worse, 20 different states prohibit the donation of food past its date label, despite the lack of scientific evidence that this food has become unsafe for consumption. For all of these reasons, food waste advocates are pushing for the national standardization of date labels, calling for labels that explicitly identify whether a date label indicates food quality or if it indicates food safety.

What other food waste prevention tactics should be implemented?
In the Roadmap, prevention solutions were identified as some of the most cost-effective, and surprisingly had the largest net environmental impact—even more than recycling solutions. This is mainly because of the agricultural resources that never went to waste. Many of these tactics include business solutions like trayless dining in cafeterias, spoilage prevention packaging, waste tracking, and imperfect and ugly produce. Another major prevention solution that can be implemented nationally is consumer education campaigns. The AdCouncil, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council just launched a three-year national awareness campaign focused on reducing consumer food waste. Check out their amazing, cry-worthy video and get involved through


Donation is a key food waste recovery tactic. Why is it so hard to donate food?
There are four major barriers to donating food—liability concerns; fragmented regulation; handling, transportation and storage; and financial viability. But while food donation can be challenging, there is some good news. In December 2015 the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act was introduced, making permanent the charitable giving tax incentives for food donation. These benefits that had previously only been accessible to large C corporations, have been expanded to smaller food businesses and farms. Additionally, these deductions were enhanced, meaning businesses can now claim both a portion of the cost of the food and the potential profits. There is now a major opportunity for the federal government to educate businesses and farms so they can benefit from these new tax incentives.

While the majority of food waste occurs before food arrives into our homes, food waste at home is the largest piece of the pie—making up 43% of waste. Beyond using all parts of foods and composting at home, what other food waste recycling methods do you see in our future?
The food waste recycling methods available to you will depend on what organics recycling infrastructure exists in your region. For larger metropolitan areas, we expect to see an increase in centralized composting and anaerobic digestion facilities—especially in the Northeast, Northwest and Midwest regions of the United States, where high landfill disposal fees and high compost and energy market prices will make these facilities more financially attractive. For those who aren’t familiar, anaerobic digestion is allowing microorganisms to break down organic waste without the presence of oxygen, which results in the generation of biogas and digested solids (digestate).

Throughout both urban and suburban centers, a really exciting trend is the increase in decentralized, community-based composting sites. These smaller facilities can be found in community gardens or neighborhood centers, on degraded sites, or even under the Queensboro Bridge right here in New York City! Community composters play a major role by educating and engaging the public around composting, and by providing recycling infrastructure in areas where centralized options either don’t exist, or aren’t available to the public. On Sundays, I take my compost down to my local farmers market. For you New Yorkers, find ways to recycle your food scraps through Grow NYC.

Foodstand is in the midst of our second #NoFoodWaste campaign. What are some #NoFoodWaste practices that you incorporate into your daily life?
I compost in our home using the Bokashi system which basically “pickles” your food scraps—a major plus because it curbs the smell in your kitchen. I also make compound butters and pestos out of the wilting, miscellaneous herbs in my crisper. I sneak spinach into just about every hot dish I make (spinach and greens are normally the first things to die in my fridge). And finally, when I’m out, I always order the “kiddie” sized version of my favorite smoothie and protein shake. My pet peeve is ginormous cups and portion offerings that I know I’ll never eat or drink. Protects the wallet, the waistline and the environment!

How do you define good food?
Good food is food that is made with love, intention and only a few ingredients!

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
One habit I would change is that we should all pipe up at our grocery stores, restaurants, and delis, and refuse the senseless, extra packaging our food is always placed in. I used to get an egg sandwich from my corner deli—they would wrap it in wax paper, then foil, then put it in a plastic container, put the container in a paper bag, then put that in a plastic bag and then hand it to me with a fork and knife. This is so common and so unnecessary. Unless you are stepping out into a torrential rainstorm, tell them to wrap it once, and then toss it in your backpack.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t working on the nation’s leading food waste initiative, I would be a chef!

What’s always in your fridge? What do you use it for?
I always have eggs, lemons, scallions, and fish in the fridge. Eggs because they are a cheap, easy protein for any meal; lemons because I always need to make a fresh vinaigrette; scallions because they last longer than other aromatic herbs; and fish because I belong to a local community supported fishery called Mermaid’s Garden.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you want to share a meal with? And where?
I have many on my list, but I’d do anything to have a dinner party with Ina Garten in her gorgeous Hamptons home. We’d giggle and gossip while we chopped, we’d shoosh good ol’ Jeffrey away from the pots and platters, and then we’d sit down to our gorgeous meal and say in unison “How easy was THAT?!” and then burst into laughter. And then I would faint from too much happiness.

Your good food wish?
My good food wish is that we as Americans start to take better care of our precious food system by staying curious, experimental and bold in our decisions about food.