Each morning of a week-long project, Carolsfeld and Owen, along with a group of volunteers, picked up a van full of food from Hannaford the grocery store would no longer sell but is still fit for human consumption—produce, fruit, bread, bakery goods, and meat. They were picking up the food that Christopher J. Brown, of Brown Family Farm and the Food For All community meal, would normally recover through an agreement with the Bar Harbor Hannaford and the town’s food pantry.

Then, before delivering the food to its destination, Carolsfeld and Owen took it to public locations on Mount Desert Island to be sorted and weighed — and where passers-by could stop and ask questions.

“It’s to quantify and educate,” Carolsfeld said. “To quantify how much food is recovered locally from the Hannaford, and use that as an opportunity to spread awareness of local initiatives and the idea of food recovery in general.”

Carolsfeld, Owen, Brown and other volunteers have visited classrooms at Conners-Emerson Elementary School and Mount Desert Island High School — both in Bar Harbor — to talk about food recovery, explaining that much of the discarded food is quite edible … items just past “best by” dates, bags of fruit with a single moldy orange, a shipment of potatoes thrown out to make room on the shelves for the next batch.

Carolsfeld said 33 million tons of food is discarded per year in the U.S. alone; most grocery stores have their discarded food hauled off to incinerators and landfills. “With 5% of that food you could feed 4 million people over a year,” he said.

The problem is not how to use leftover food, but creating systems to do so, according to Carolsfeld: systems that ensure edible food is distributed to people, for animal feed, for compost, or to produce energy.

Hannaford in Bar Harbor has the beginnings of a system: Brown takes and distributes a significant part of the store’s food waste, and a composting facility in Exeter gets some to use as compost and to create methane for electricity production.

Donating unwanted food to local community initiatives makes sense for grocery stores. They are protected against liability by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, receive tax benefits, and no longer have to pay per ton to transport food to incinerators or landfills.

Food recovered from Hannaford is processed by volunteers on Thursdays for a sumptuous Food For All community meal, and is distributed to the Bar Harbor Food Pantry, and Peach House Café — a free meal offered by students every Sunday at COA — as well as to families in the wider Hancock County area.

The Weight of Food Recovery awareness campaign grew out of Carolsfeld’s ongoing work with local food issues. For his senior project, focused on food insecurity and recovery, he worked with Brown, writing grants and assisting with the Food For All community meal. After graduating, he continues this work.

He encourages people interested in becoming involved in local food recovery to stop in at the community meal every Thursday, 4 to 7 p.m. at the Holy Redeemer church on Ledgelawn Avenue in Bar Harbor — to continue the conversation over a good meal.

 


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