Behind the scenes with Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story

On the outside, Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin seem like a regular Vancouver, BC couple. They work hard during the week, spend weekends soaking up the BC lifestyle and can be heard geeking out on the weather reports to find the best powder. In reality, this pro-active couple has been on a mission since 2008 to inspire and educate individuals about the small steps we can make as individuals to support a more sustainable future. It all started with a friendly competition where they challenged each other to live garbage free for one year. As a filmmaker and music producer, Grant documented the competition and released their first feature film: The Clean Bin Project, an award-winning documentary about their year living zero waste.

It was while presenting on zero waste at a school that they began to notice the magnitude of perfectly good, untouched and sealed food in the garbages at the school. At the same time, a report came out from Guelph, Ontario that roughly 40% of food is wasted. This inspired their latest film project, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, where Grant and Jen lived off of food waste for 6 whole months while they researched and explored the issues around the billions of dollars of food that are wasted each year in North America. It’s a staggering issue that hasn’t received much attention yet in the media and Grant and Jen are ordinary people trying to wrap their heads around the problem. Their film recently premiered at Hot Docs and Grant won the award for Emerging Canadian Filmmaker.

Just Eat It - A food waste story (Trailer) from Grant Baldwin Videography on Vimeo.

When I asked Grant what he hoped the biggest take away message from the film would be, he mentioned that he was surprised by how much we, as consumers, actually contribute to the problem of food waste. “...even though we were pointing fingers at industry and they are wasting so much food, when you look at the food waste reports, half of the food wasted is on our side, the consumer side, so what we do in our houses and how we behave at restaurants and when we eat out. And so that was shocking to see. So I think in the end we just want people to value food and ...just to start eating what we buy and what we need.”

Going ‘dumpster diving’ was just like going to the grocery store for the couple, with some differences. On any given day, they could find a dumpster full of perfectly good hummus or on one of their best finds, $15,000 worth of organic chocolate. “We actually had the same problem as the wholesalers. We had a surplus amount of food and it would only be good for a certain amount of time and then we’d have to get rid of it. So instead of tossing it, we were donating it.” Part of the problem with food waste is confusion around food labels and best before dates. Grant and Jen were finding perfectly edible food that had passed the best before date, yet we are conditioned to toss food that has any doubt of food safety. Best before dates are actually just suggestions about food freshness and do not actually determine food safety.

When it comes to solutions to reducing our food waste in the world, Grant and Jen suggest everyone can make a difference by trying to eat locally and making an effort to only purchase what we will actually consume. After that, there are multiple initiatives and movements that are working towards reducing food waste, such as feeding livestock with food, changing the food labelling system and looking for uses of food waste as a source of energy or electricity. “Compost is great for food scraps but it is sort of the last step. It’s the least value back.” Lesson learned, ski bums that chow down on our leftovers in the ski lodge at lunch are actually great for our environment… or something like that.

To find out more about Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story and their future showings, check out their website and follow their facebook page. To read my full interview with Grant, check out this blog post with the full content.

By AI Blog contributor: Sarah Frood