It was a beautiful sunny day and so I slowly sauntered to Earth’s General Store around 12:30 p.m. for the third SalvagED event. As I scanned the already full tables outside, I could tell I was clearly behind. Today was not a day I should have dawdled. As I made my way inside, things only got worse. Tamales?! Tacos?! Sandwiches? There were already too many options but as the line behind me grew longer, I knew I had to make a decision. “I’ll take the tacos!” As it turned out, I was about to get the very last tacos of the day. Only halfway through the event and they were already sold out of the root vegetable and avocado tacos. After one delicious bite, I could see why.
I sat down with Carley-Jane Stanton, founder of the Alder Food Security Society earlier this month to find out a bit more about the event and the masterminds behind it.
“I’ve been involved in food related things for a long time, ” she says. As an avid community gardener at Our Urban Eden downtown and the youngest citizen appointed to the Edmonton Food Council, Carley-Jane has been involved in food production through her time working as a farmhand with Riverbend Gardens and as the market manager for the Southwest Edmonton Farmers’ Market. She has also completed research on farmers’ market programming in the Edmonton area as an agriculture and resource economics student at the University of Alberta. What recently struck her, however, is the food waste that is occurring.
• $31 billion of food every year is wasted in Canada.
• In North America, over 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables are rejected by supermarkets because they aren’t attractive enough for consumers.
• The primary contributor to consumer food waste is high expectations — demand for high-quality, aesthetically pleasing food is a key factor behind the volume of food waste occurring among consumers (According to the Cut Waste, Grow Profit 2014 report).
• When people toss food, all the resources to grow, ship and produce it get chucked too, including massive volumes of water. In the U.S. alone, the amount of water loss from food waste is like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion litres of water down the drain.
Despite all the food being wasted however, people are still struggling with getting enough to eat. In fact, one in eight Canadian families currently struggle to put food on the table. It was this problem that inspired Carley-Jane to found the Alder Society, a non-profit organization that envisions all Edmontonians having access to healthy, fresh, local food, regardless of income, gender, race or class.
“Food security is a very real problem and yet so much food that could gets used simply gets thrown out. We want to change that,” Carley-Jane says.
Which brings us to the event at hand: SalvagED. Carley-Jane explains how the popular SalvagED events are trying to curb food waste. As consumers, we are unaware of how much produce can actually be used, even if it doesn’t look perfect.
“Apples that are bruised, carrots that are a little limp — these items are getting thrown out by so many people, stores and markets because they believe they are unusable,” Carley-Jane says. “With our SalvagED events, we really wanted to show people that they can use that produce. They may not look perfect [but] they are perfectly decent to eat!”
Carley-Jane is also quick to point out that while there is a suggested donation for SalvagED events, if someone needs a meal they are welcome to come and have something at no charge. “This isn’t about making money, it’s about educating people.”
Of course, in order for SalvagED to work, there are a few necessary key ingredients, one of which is the food of course. “Right now we’re mostly getting our produce from farmer’s markets,” Carley-Jane explains, “but we’re hoping to expand that to include grocery stores as well.” As for the masterminds creating these dishes, chefs across Edmonton are stepping up to be involved. “It’s been pretty easy to get chefs on board, really, we just ask! I think it gives them a new challenge, the chance to do something creative with a limited ingredients.”
And creative they are. For SalvagED 3, Israel Alvarez brought us tamales with guajillo roasted tomato sauce, blue corn tacos with root vegetables and avocado, and peach-nectarine popsicles. Not to be outdone, the chefs at the Mercury Room served up equally inspiring items including curry puffs with wilted collard, a roasted root vegetable salad and a Mediterranean smoked sandwich with smoked eggplant.
Future initiatives and programming to be launched by the Alder Food Security Society include monthly food chats for free education about food insecurity and our food system, community kitchen programming, and a youth job shadow program. And, of course, more SalvagED events — to which I provide some advice: get there early!
If you are interested in volunteering, contact the Alder Society at firstname.lastname@example.org or find them on facebook.