Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Leanpath Project: "STOP Pause Weigh the Waste"

Press Release, Bar Harbor, ME, October, 2013

Rupununi, LeanPath and Healthy Acadia Partner on Food Waste Prevention

On Monday, September 23, Rupununi: American Bar and Grill and LeanPath launched a month-long pilot project to prevent food waste in the kitchen. Throughout the next month, Rupununi will use a LeanPath tracking device, consisting of a scale, a touch screen, and data analytics, to measure pre-consumer food waste in their kitchen. Facilitated by Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Initiative, the goal of the project is for management and employees to identify and adopt effective waste prevention practices and raise awareness about the negative impacts of food waste in our communities.

Rupununi, a restaurant located in Bar Harbor, connected with LeanPath through Healthy Acadia this past summer. LeanPath, an international company based in Portland, Oregon, is a leader in the movement to reduce the negative impacts of food waste. Rupununi owner Michael Boland initially approached Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Coordinator, Hannah Semler, to discuss composting options for restaurants. Through discussions and research, it became clear that a waste prevention strategy would the best and most cost-effective next step to designing a food waste reduction and management service for his restaurants. Healthy Acadia then connected LeanPath with Rupununi, and the pilot project emerged.

“We see the serious problems created by food waste, and we are excited by this opportunity to explore an innovative way to address the issue,” stated Michael Boland, owner of Rupununi. “We know of many restaurants for which this model could be very effective, and we are willing to take the lead in testing it out. We hope this will be of benefit to other businesses as well as to the overall sustainability of our food system.”

LeanPath food waste tracking technology has proven to save up to 2-6% of food purchasing costs for high-volume food service providers (universities, hospitals, casinos, etc.), but it has not yet been widely implemented in restaurant kitchens. This pilot project at Rupununi is an opportunity for LeanPath to conduct research on how to best implement the latest tracking technology in the restaurant setting and to analyze the level of impact that can be achieved.

“The LeanPath Tracker collects strategic information that owners, managers, chefs and employees can act on to reduce food waste and positively impact the triple bottom line: economic prosperity, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship,” said Dave Britton, Director of Operations at LeanPath.

The Gleaning Initiative, a project of Healthy Acadia in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, coordinates efforts to prevent food waste and increase access to healthy food for community members experiencing low-income or food insecurity across Hancock County. The Initiative engages food producers, retailers and volunteers to collect food that would otherwise go to waste and distribute it to food pantries and community meal sites in the region. This particular project is an attempt to coordinate food waste reduction efforts and improve our food systems, while providing Rupununi with a technologically based cost-saving business solution that will have a social responsibility project of food redistribution tacked onto it in innovative ways.

“We are thrilled to be working with Rupununi and LeanPath on this pilot, and we applaud them for being leaders in food waste prevention,” stated Hannah Semler, Gleaning Coordinator at Healthy Acadia. “It is critical to see food waste in the broader context of our food systems, recognizing that food waste of any kind is a tragedy when many of our neighbors are struggling with hunger.”

With the pilot project underway at Rupununi, Lead Chef Jimmy Velas is embracing the task of ensuring that he and his employees “STOP, and Weigh the Waste”. 

Rupununi Lead Chef Jimmy Velas, Rupununi kitchen employees, and Healthy Acadia’s Hannah Semler at Rupununi Food Waste Prevention Launch, September 23, 2013.
Any time there is food waste, such as expired items that were not used in time, trim waste from cutting vegetables, or overcooked menu items, employees are now weighing the food that is unable to be used. The project is designed to get comprehensive waste data with the LeanPath Tracker to make informed decisions on food waste prevention plans for next season. 

“It will be interesting to learn where our waste is coming from and what patterns emerge. Are we ordering too much of something? Are we overcooking certain things? Ringing in significant numbers of wrong orders? Do we need to adjust how much we order based on expiration dates? Answers to these questions should really be able to help us improve our processes next year to reduce waste,” said Jimmy Velas, Rupununi’s Lead Chef.

Velas will coordinate the collection of data and upload it to the LeanPath analytics dashboard on a weekly basis. LeanPath will review the data, and together with Healthy Acadia they will create a final evaluation and debrief that will serve as guidance to the restaurant for their next steps. Boland, Velas, and the Rupununi crew will be able to use the information to determine what actions make the most sense for their businesses as they continue their efforts to reduce food waste and improve the triple bottom line of economic prosperity, environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

For more information on this food waste reduction project or other efforts of the Gleaning Initiative, contact Healthy Acadia’s Gleaning Coordinator, Hannah Semler, hannah@healthyacadia.org; at (207) 677-7171 or to reach Leanpath contact Janet Haugan, jhaugan@leanpath.com; (503) 928-9085

Great Reading in the Modern Farmer! 
"Food Waste: The Next Food Revolution" (click here)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Farm Drop Gleaning Model

One of the amazing things about my job as Gleaning Coordinator is that I get to take a good look at the incredible work that farmers, community members and other organizations are doing in our communities across Hancock County; and can imagine us shifting and nudging eachother slightly towards a viable future.

Farm Drop, an online farmer’s market based at the Wineshop in Blue Hill, will now serve as a place for gleaned farm products to be gathered and then redistributed to organizations that provide for community members who are struggling with food insecurity. People who are hard-pressed to find the source of their week’s meals often receive mainly processed food that is redistributed to food pantries from the food industry’s surplus. While our food pantries strive to provide healthy and fresh options, they are constrained by budgets and the challenges of trying to simply provide enough food to meet the community’s need. The Gleaning Initiative is working in partnership with food pantries and community meal sites in a variety of ways to increase the amount of local, healthy food that they can provide. This new partnership with Farm Drop creates a system by which local farmers can conveniently donate part of the bounty still growing in their fields after harvest to the food pantries and community meal sites in the region. Farmers go to the Wineshop each week to deliver the produce purchased by community members through Farm Drop. So in the same trip they can deliver the produce to be donated. The Gleaning Initiative then coordinates the delivery of the donated produce to the food pantries and community meal sites.

While engaging in the Gleaning Initiative may provide marketing opportunities for farmers, I have seen that the primary reason why the farmers participate is due to their strong preference for their food to be eaten and to benefit the community, rather than go to “waste.” As an additional benefit, people who receive food through the Gleaning Initiative’s food programs with local producers may, when their situations change, become long-term customers of the same farms who provided the community benefit. Healthy Acadia’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program has served 133 people in Hancock County this year, of which at least five known participants have already worked out ways to stay on as CSA customers.

Last Thursday four farms, three of which use Farm Drop for direct online sales to customers, welcomed gleaners into their homes and fields to gather food that was no longer viable for commercial purposes. Four teams were created, one for each farm, and they set out to harvest the food, ensuring that their neighbors were provided for with a week’s worth of fresh vegetables from local farms.

See the WABI TV 5 story on the launch of the Blue Hill Peninsula’s Gleaning Team last Thursday 

At King Hill Farm, four volunteer gleaners, one from the UMaine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Program, one of the Food Insecurity Group at the St. Francis Church, a Sedgwick resident, and a volunteer from the Methodist Church in Bucksport, all came out from 10am to 12pm to King Hill Farm, agreeing to be filmed by WABI TV 5 from Bangor.

The harvest was bountiful and beautiful indeed: 35 pounds of tomatoes, 40 pounds of tomatillos, 30 punds of chard, 15 pounds of kale, 5 pounds of pea-shoots (wilted).

Blue Hill Gleaning Team with Gleaning Initiative Coordinator (second from left)
For the next 8 weeks, farmers will have direct contact with Gleaning Team Coordinators in the towns of Brooksville, Penobscot, and Blue Hill. More farms and home gardens are welcome to participate, as we will be keeping a waiting list of volunteers and matching them up with their local farms as needed.

Thank you to Farm Drop, farmers and gleaning volunteers for promoting healthy and vibrant communities, and for supporting Healthy Acadia’s food security and food sovereignty efforts.

King Hill Farm owner Amanda Provencher teaching harvesting skills

At Backstage Farm a slightly different model was used. Brownyn Clement (Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps AmeriCorps VISTA member with Healthy Acadia) was joined by an Emmaus Center employee to work from 11am to 1pm on the farm. Their time served as a credit for food that was later harvested by farmers Helena and Bill to be distributed through Farm Drop. The camera crew from WABI TV was there to get a good look at what the farmers themselves refer to as the smallest farm in Hancock County. A total of 13 punds, of carrots, 12 pounds of potatoes, 15 pounds of beets, 4 pounds of onions, 6 pounds of swiss chard.

Everything except the beets and chard were on Paula Mrozicki’s wish list for the Simmering Pot’s Monday night meal 2:30-6pm. Winter squash soup is on the menu!!!

At Clayfield Farm a serendipitous magic that seems to have been following me for the past year since approaching the topic of food waste, arrived a few minutes after me, to this beautiful little farm in East Blue Hill. This time it was meeting Tammy and Zoe. Neighbors of farmers Phil and Deborah, Tammy had been looking for a socially engaging, outdoors home-schooling activity for Zoe, and found the idea of gleaning to be the perfect thing. Ten minutes later we were selecting tomatoes from the plants Phil and Deborah were “done with”. In the end some 10 pounds of extra corn, too small or only partially developed, made it to the Wineshop the next day alongside the 40 pounds of tomatoes.

The best apple I've ever tried; a new variety called Honey Crisp. It had a dimple and therefore could not be sold as Grade A. Phil is serious about his quality standards and takes for granted that some waste is inevitable on the farm. He will also sell seconds, however he is thrilled to be sharing the bounty from his small farm through the Farm Drop distribution system.

At Four Season Farm, an employee of Tinder Hearth Bakery met the farmers at 8am to harvest 40 pounds of swiss chard, which were delivered to the Farm Drop location at the Wineshop that afternoon (thank you Bill Giordano at Valley of the Stars Farm for delivering).

Bill Giordano dropping off gleaned chard from Four Season Farm

Once the food is delivered to the central location of the Farm Drop Online Farmer's Market, meal-sites and food pantries show up to shop for the products they need that week based on other arrangements and sources of food they receive. Meanwhile boxes are put together for other organisations in Hancock County based on their storage and processing capacity. There are also systems in place to make sure food waste unfit for human consumption is fed directly to pigs.