In December of last year, the Clark County Library got in a new DVD called Just Eat It. Always on the lookout for new culinary information, we ordered it and waited until our turn came up on March 8th to pick it up. Turns out it is a popular documentary on food waste, food growing and processing, and a 6-month experiment by a couple who decided to see just exactly what is out there being wasted.
Every part of this DVD, including the plastic case, is of interest. The film is a winner of over nine major Film Festival Awards; online sources make that number 20 if you count it being a finalist and runner-up. Reviews say it is “Powerful” and “Shocking ... thought-provoking ... inspired.”
The top comment by Variety tells you “Hugely entertaining ... will leave audiences gobsmacked.” So what is that last word? Online definitions for modern slang say it is of British origin, taking the words "gob" — mouth — and a verb — "smack" — and blending them to mean “being utterly astonished or stunned.”
That pretty much sums up how we felt after watching the 73-minute version. The movie case asked the question, “We all love food, so how could we possibly be throwing nearly half of it in the trash?” Well, to be honest, we thought that figure was awfully high.
Tristram Stewart began the journey with a look at the corporate image of a perfect banana. There are guidelines for harvesting and selling bananas that have nothing to do with pesticides, variety, or locations. The literal hill of unwanted bananas is astounding each time they are harvested. Onto peaches, which are graded not only for size but for perfection, hence 20 to 70 percent of all harvested graded peaches (tons and tons) go to garbage dumps. (Only so much can be given to local food banks, which don’t have the capacity or infrastructure to dispense it.) Celery, our beloved crunchy vegetable, is next to see vast waste.
Interspersed in all the photography, facts, and graphs was the story of Jen and Grant, who undertook a six-month journey into a food waste exposé that found them searching out their sustenance from culled produce and foods in farmer markets, stores, and behind stores (dumpsters).
They did not eat garbage, half-eaten foods from restaurant plates, or anything that was expired or opened. The exception to that was when they gleaned from a refrigerator and cupboards of a relative who was in the process of moving. They checked all packages for sell by/best by dates. They also went online to check for recalls on foods that they found entire dumpsters devoted to, such as tofu, chocolate bars, and packaged meals.
An eye-opening find was a dumpster outside a studio where a pizza chain had finished food photography just a day before. The photographer called them; the foods had been in the fridge and freezer until that very morning. Filling the metal box were bags of dough, meats, cheeses, veggies, and sauces. It appeared to us that a thousand pizzas lay in waiting for someone to assemble them.
One thing we had never thought about was that wasting food in this country is not taboo. We have laws to fine people for littering or not recycling, but wasting food is normal.
With two months left in their experiment, Jen and Grant found themselves with kitchen counters, cupboards, a fridge, and a freezer overflowing with perfectly good food. They invited friends in to glean. Those friends were amazed that the amount of food Jen and Grant described to them could actually be found.
Another amazing find was an entire dumpster devoted to eggs. Not outdated, not cracked, just dozens upon dozens of eggs with due dates two weeks away.
In the end, Jen and Grant said they were happy they found food, but sad and upset that so much was being wasted. They also spent time weighing, logging, and estimating costs of all food they brought into the house during this six months.
The film is geared for all ages; there is a farmer, chefs, a scientist, and others, who when interviewed add much weight to this serious subject. The DVD includes a classroom version (50 minutes) and resource materials. We highly recommend this film as a learning tool for schools and families. It takes one to a whole different world within our world. One that grows food that people will waste and not blink an eye at. A world where 40 percent of all food grown is not eaten.
If I can be quite frank with you and dare to use slang — you will be gobsmacked.
For more online info, go to www.foodwastemovie.com/about.
Comments? Contact Connie at mooredcr@Juno.com.