If hungry people are not the solution to food waste, what is? Answer: upcycling.
I wholeheartedly believe that low-income people are not the solution to food waste. That means I don't buy into the "solving food waste and hunger problems simultaneously" narrative. This has to do with the poor nutritional value and cultural irrelevancy of foods that tend to be donated (think a can of sloppy joe meat, which causes health problems and is absolutely meaningless to a refugee family, for example). It also has to do with the sheer quantity of certain types of food that food companies want to donate, namely baked goods.
Any person who has ever worked at a food pantry or other organization that receives food donations knows the feeling of turning away requests to receive donated day-old bread. There is way more bread being produced than could ever be eaten by all the food insecure people in our communities. This position begs the question, what are we supposed to do with the nearly 40% of food produced for human consumption that goes to waste? (For those who ask the alternative question, "how do we feed the one in seven food insecure people?" my answer: expand the highly effective and efficient programs we already have in place, such as SNAP - food stamps.)
I think the answer to the food waste problem is clear: upcycling. Upcycling food is the process of turning any food item into a product of greater value. This process has occurred in Indigenous cultures and around the world for a long time, but in our modern, industrialized food system, consumers are trained to steer away from "ugly food," despite the high quality and positive environmental impact.
Hibbert's Foods is a company dedicated to reducing food waste by showing that food upcycling can and should be a part of our conventional food system. Currently, we have one product, Twice Rounds, a hand made bagel chip made from bagels recovered from Moe's Bagel in Denver, Colorado. By turning the bagels into a delicious shelf stable food item, we buy ourselves the time to make sure the food is eaten versus sent to the landfill.
Jessica Hibbert, CEO of Hibbert's Foods
We are starting with bagel chips because bagels are one of the most wasted (and yummy) foods out there, but there are plenty of other wasted foods we plan to recover and upcycle in the future. Tortilla chips form recovered tortillas, pita chips from recovered pitas, plus hummus and salsa from recovered chick peas and tomatoes. The possibilities are endless!
I co-founded Hibbert's Foods, and currently serve mainly as an advisor, and connection maker.