That’s Not “Waste” … That’s “Awesome”

By Lynette Johnson *

Reduce and Recover LogoA couple of weeks ago, I participated in the Reduce and Recover: Save Food for People conference at Harvard Law School, sponsored by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic. While there, I met and talked a bit with Doug Rauch, former head of the Trader Joe’s grocery store chain.

Doug still thinks about food all day, every day. But now he’s thinking about food he couldn’t sell when he worked at Trader Joe’s – food that’s not pretty enough to sell at the grocery store – the same food that the Society of St. Andrew thinks about every day. Doug has pioneered a new kind of grocery store in Boston, called the Daily Table, selling fresh and prepared foods at a steep discount, because the ingredients are imperfect or otherwise considered unmarketable.

Our approaches to doing something about this kind of food are different, and our scale these days is vastly different (Society of St. Andrew moves a lot more food!) but Rauch says some important things, that we’d do well to hear.

Doug challenges our language. He asks, “When you shop at Marshall’s, TJMaxx, or Plato’s Closet, what are you buying? Is it clothing waste?”

He’s pretty clear about this: “No one wants to eat food waste!”

I don’t know that Doug has yet found the right phrase for imperfect and unmarketable food, but he has convinced me that “food waste” is the wrong one to use when talking about the millions of pounds of fresh, healthy, nourishing, and delicious fruits and vegetables the Society of St. Andrew gleans or transports and distributes each year.

I’m leaning toward “unsold,” “available,” or maybe even “awesome.” What do you think?

* Lynette Johnson is SoSA’s Director of Church Relations


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