Feeding Curiosity on Sustainable Eating

 
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On a chilly but gloriously sunny day (March 26th), MealCare McGill held our Education event “Feeding Curiosity on Sustainable Eating” focused on the topic of food loss and waste at Thomson House. Our initiative received Tiny Stream funding from McGill’s Sustainable Projects Fund (SPF). We were also thrilled to announce the event being certified as a Gold McGill Sustainable Event, which meant taking specific sustainability steps such as having a zero single-use plastic policy and all reusable dishware, inviting speakers and participants from diverse backgrounds, and ensuring the event was accessible to all. In line with MealCare’s mission and our event’s broad theme, the food was all made with ingredients that are easily substitutable with food scraps or “imperfect food” (think: carrot top pesto, banana bread, and bread pudding). Our goals were to bring together people from differing backgrounds and foster innovative thinking on ways we as individuals can do our part in combating food waste.

We hope the event sparked ambition and a desire to address the complex issue of food waste in our current food system and its associated challenges. The event itself was a huge success, thanks to our inspiring speakers, engaged participants, and members of MealCare’s team. Our guest speakers were Kendra Pomerantz (McGill Office of Sustainability), David Côté (LOOP Mission), Jonathan Rodrigue (Still Good Inc.), Mikaela Fitzwilliam (Lufa Farms), and Anaïs Roger-Evans (Lufa Farms).

Kendra Pomerantz, a McGill alumna, recent MBA grad, former McGill Food Systems Project manager, and sustainability expert is the current lead of McGill Office of Sustainability’s (MOOS) Zero-waste initiative. At our event, she brilliantly laid the foundation by speaking about the downstream effects of uneaten food going into landfills–including greenhouse gas emissions and leachate pollution–and why, even with these clear negative impacts, it’s still happening widely across Quebec. These challenges, she revealed, span logistic, financial, and social barriers at McGill as well, and she then discussed what Zero Waste McGill is doing to manage the school’s waste, which includes pilot projects like the organic waste collection in McConnell Engineering. Finally, she touched on ways students and individuals are able to help, specifically through collective action, public pressure, awareness raising, and the importance of applied student research.

In addition to founding RISE Kombucha and Crudessence, our second speaker David Côté is one of the creators of LOOP Mission–a Montreal company that originally started by transforming “imperfect” fruit and veggies into delicious juice and has now expanded to “upcycle” stale bread to brew (really good) sour beers. Hearing David speak about his adventuresome beginnings on this “food waste crusade” was an utter delight, as his passion for doing something about how the food supply chain currently functions was clearly emulated in his talk.  Some points he emphasized included the facts that 750,000 loaves of bread, 1.2 million tomatoes, and 2.4 million potatoes are wasted in Canada per DAY (which is ludicrous considering over 4 million Canadians struggle to put food on the table–that’s 1 in 8 households). In spite of this, he left us with a message of hopefulness and that addressing food waste in our society requires a more circular system where resources and products are kept cycling through the economy for much longer than they are currently.

Jonathan Rodrigue began Still Good Inc. after years of experience working with large corporations, retailers, and enterprises on developing food waste reduction practices that led him to envision a new model for the food industry. This is encapsulated in Still Good, a company that recovers surplus ingredients from local Montreal businesses–like spent beer grains from a brewery and pulp from a juicery–and give them another life in the form of cookies and bars. (Jonathan even brought a case of their products for us to try and I can confirm that they are phenomenal.) Even more, Jonathan explained that fundamental to the mission is that Still Good stay local and that the only thing exported is this model where feasible, embracing a circular economy. A further part of their sustainability priority is using 100% compostable, plant-based packaging, which is not only ingenious but also really just makes sense in a system seeking to return valuable nutrients to the soil and other ecosystems.  Upcycling with local inputs is the current food “trend” but I truly hope it remains a part of the food system indefinitely.

Our final speakers were Mikaela and Anaïs, two recent grads from McGill’s Desautels Managing for Sustainability program who both work in the purchasing department of Lufa Farms. Lufa Farms is an urban farm, foodhub, and online marketplace selling mostly locally and sustainably produced foods–including Still Good products–to conscious consumers in Montreal, making fresh produce more accessible to people.  Anaïs is actually an alumna of MealCare McGill so it was fascinating to hear how food sustainability is integrated into her work.  One of the takeaways from what they shared with us and participants’ questions and comments was that supporting local producers not only positively impacts the environment, but also helps out local farmers.

In conclusion, a combo of 5 incredibly knowledgeable and inspiring guest speakers plus 30 curious and driven individuals, the event facilitated valuable collaboration between multiple disciplines and perspectives, and a growing appetite for change towards a more sustainable food system.