Here’s a stupid question. Is 40% a lot? The answer, of course, is “Yes it is.” For example, if you order a pizza that has 8 slices, and you throw 40% of the pizza in the trash, you’ll only have 4.8 slices to eat. Why would you do that? You wouldn’t throw out 40% of a perfectly good pizza. That you paid for. Right? That would be a ridiculous waste of food and money.
Well, believe it or not, you are in effect doing just that. And so is everybody else in the country. According to the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, between 30 and 40% of the food supply in the US is wasted. This is not some sort of deep-probe Out to Lunch investigative reporting – you can find this information on the FDA’s website.
And think about this fact for a moment. In the US, food waste is the single largest item thrown into landfills. Not paper. Not plastic. Food. And just to be clear, by “food waste” we’re not talking about things like potato peelings or compost. We’re talking about discarded food.
If there was a way to intercept this food waste, it could be diverted to the 42 million Americans who live in households reported as “food insecure.” That is precisely what an organization called Food Rescue US is trying to do.
The New Orleans chapter of Food Rescue is headed up by its Site Director, Kelly Haggerty.
When you own a restaurant, food waste is unavoidable. No matter how skilled you are at restaurant administration, it’s very difficult to predict exactly how many people are going to show up on a given day. But, because restaurants run on slim margins, being able to predict food requirements is essential if you’re going to keep the lights on.
If, for example, your restaurant is in line with the FDA statistic of wasting 40% of the food you purchase every day, you’ll pretty soon find yourself out of business.
New Orleanian Robert LeBlanc has managed to navigate the unpredictability of running restaurants, music clubs, and bars in New Orleans since 2005.Currently the hospitality businesses Robert’s company, LeBlanc + Smith, own and operate, include the restaurant Sylvain in the French Quarter, the bar Barrel Proof in the Lower Garden District, and the Chloe Hotel in Uptown.
You can’t live in New Orleans and not have an appreciation of food. It’s not till you leave here and go other places that you realize the high culinary standards we’re surrounded by here. Even tiny poboy and snoball stands deliver tastes you don’t get anywhere else.
And it’s not till you leave here and go other places that you realize how New Orleanians have a respect for each other that stands apart from the casual indifference people exhibit toward strangers in other cities.
Because of that, New Orleanians will continue to rally around the cause of Kelly’s Food Rescue as they become aware of it. And Robert’s bars and restaurants are certainly taking their places in the long tradition of exemplary hospitality we’re famous for here in New Orleans.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.
And you can also catch up with more lunchtime conversation about New Orleans food, specifically booze and veggies.