#NoFoodWaste Behind the Plate


November 13, 2015

Meet Matt Preston, the Purchasing Manager for Dig Inn Seasonal Market (@diginn). With a background in farming and marketing, he’s just the man for the job—establishing real, meaningful relationships with all of Dig Inn’s producers. One of the many things we love about Matt is his passion for #NoFoodWaste, which plays a large role in Dig Inn’s purchasing and cooking practices.

And on Friday, November 20th, you can meet Matt in person at Foodstand and Dig Inn’s #NoFoodWaste November Happy Hour, at Dig Inn’s 23rd Street location! Mingle with fellow Foodstanders and listen to presentations by Matt and others about limiting food waste. Dig Inn will be offering two-for-one drinks as well as samplers of their new menu. RSVP early, as space is limited. Foodstanders receive a discount on ticket prices, so if you haven’t already, download the app! In the meantime, here’s more from Matt.

For those just getting to know you, how would you describe your business?
Dig Inn serves vegetable forward, American food, and aims to democratize the farm-to-table movement by working directly with farmers and partners we know and trust.

When did you first become personally aware that food waste is a big deal?
I read about the confluence of two main issues—the world’s rapid population growth (projected to be 9.7 billion in 2050) and reports that America is losing 40% of its food to waste. Each food business has the ability and responsibility to improve this problem along the whole supply chain.

What’s always in your fridge? How do you use it?
85% dark chocolate. Handsome Brook Farm eggs. Brooklyn Grange hot sauce. (Remember Behind The Plate with Brooklyn Grange’s Ben Flanner?) Overnight oats. Homemade vegetable broth. Hot sauce goes on the eggs. Everything else is consumed independently.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I enjoy contributing to a team that is helping shape the way people are eating and the way food is grown. I also like supporting our farmers and giving them a direct line of sight into where their food is being served and who is eating it.

What are some of the principles that guide your business?
Food and people come first: we invest in the quality of our product and our employees. We understand we have to make concessions sometimes, and not every vegetable can grow in our backyards in NYC. That’s okay—we really want to enable our people to make the best judgment calls so they can help nourish the people who everyday strive for balance in their nutrition.

What was your biggest challenge / hardest moment in relation to your business?
There are too many to list—how to grow and scale is what we are focused on at the moment. Even going to Boston, which is not so far from New York, means building new relationships and a new supply chain in a new region. We’re very focused on finding partners that can grow with us at the moment.

How are you putting #NoFoodWaste principles into practice and raising public awareness about food waste?
In 2015, 19% of our vegetables purchased had cosmetic defects. Examples are super jumbo sized sweet potatoes, broccoli with hollow stems, slightly creamy cauliflower or apples that are either oversized or with red blemishes. We have this conversation with all of our farmers and suppliers, and it’s certainly a process that takes time and is based on forming good relationships. The business to consumer retailer still drives much of the fresh produce demand and has defined the word ‘quality’ as it relates to what a good piece of produce should look like. For example, we give Charlie Muzzarelli, one of our suppliers, a fair price for his jumbo sweet potatoes, for what otherwise would be a product he might have to dump on the market or back into the ground.

Who is your food inspiration? Tell us why.
Paul and Sandy Arnold at Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, NY. I lived and worked on their five acre organic vegetable farm for a season and it was truly a labor of love. Paul spent his first few years living out of a tent and farming on a land without any structures (packing shed, house, greenhouse, major irrigation, etc.). Twenty years later, they have two kids, run a profitable farm, and have helped countless farmers start their own. Although I didn’t stay in farming, days spent with Paul and Sandy picking strawberries and weeding onions in the summer heat certainly inspired me to do what I do now.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be pursuing?
Probably venturing into some form of urban or rural agriculture. I have a massive garden that I tend to in Long Island, and I run an office CSA.

Who is one famous person, dead or alive, that you’d like to share a meal with? Where?
John Lennon. We’d grab a bite at a concession stand during a Farm Aid concert.

Food issues have not quite made it into the upcoming Presidential Debate. If you could ask the future President to consider a food issue that needs to be addressed, what would it be?
Land access and ownership. The first barrier for young people interested in the farming industry is access to land.

If you could get the general population to change one aspect of their eating habits, what would it be?
Moderation! You don’t necessarily have to cut anything out, just reduce your consumption of it to achieve a good balance.

Your good food wish?
That people continue to place more time, money and value on good food.

Favorite meal / recipe?
Roasted Brussels sprouts and bacon with pan seared scallops!

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