Using leftovers to save the planet – Model Citizens

Using leftovers to save the planet – Model Citizens


Scott: If you’ve ever been to New York City, you’ve probably wondered why there’s so much trash everywhere. What you probably haven’t wondered is if you can eat it. But a lot of that trash is food — more than 20%. In fact, Americans throw out more food than any other category of trash, including plastic, paper, metal, wood, glass, and rubber. I’m Scott Bixby I’m fascinated by cities and the people fighting to make them better. Today, I’m visiting the man who wants to use leftovers to save the planet. This is Robert. Robert hates food waste. Robert: Out of the 100% of food we produce in this country, how much do you think we consume and how much do you think we actually waste, as a percentage? Scott: I had no idea. Turns out the number is pretty shocking. Forty percent. Yes, almost half of the food produced in the US is simply thrown out. Robert: That 40% of the food that’s being wasted every year is actually enough food to feed the entire American hungry population 3 times over. Scott: How many people is that? Robert: That’s 75 million Americans Scott: Wow Robert: It’s just ridiculous how these issues co-exist Scott: You guys are the ones filling the gap … Robert: Well, you also, because you’re volunteering. Scott: Oh, right. today I’m volunteering for Robert’s non-profit. It’s called Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, or RLC, and the premise is pretty simple: take excess food from restaurants, and deliver it to food pantries and homeless shelters. Today I’ll be helping one of the 15 or so food runs that RLC coordinates in Manhattan every day. Hunger is nothing new to Robert. Growing up in Queens as the son of Korean Immigrants Robert’s parents worked hard to provide for their children. Robert: My parents struggled a lot because they sacrificed a lot. And as children, my brother and I, I mean we didn’t really understand what was going on but we grew up knowing what hunger was and understanding why we have to eat everything that we have because we don’t know when we’re going to have another meal. Scott: This kind of hunger is called food insecurity. Robert’s family wasn’t necessarily starving, but they would occasionally go hungry in order to make ends meet. In New York City, one in six residents is food insecure, including nearly 1 in every 4 children. And in the United States, more than 49 million people live in food-insecure households. Fortunately, despite their struggles, the sacrifices that Robert’s parents made paid off. He ended up getting a full-ride to NYU, and landed a secure job at JP Morgan. But Robert eventually decided to leave his safe job on Wall St. to pursue a full-time career in leftovers. Scott: What was that like for your parents they made so many sacrifices How did they feel about you moving into a completely different career track than they were planning on? Robert: My parents were very opposed in the beginning Scott: When Robert saw the difference in what he could accomplish with an hour of work on his own Versus an hour of work at a big company, he realized he had to leave finance Robert: When I explained that to my parents, they started to understand And then they actually were the first donors of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine Scott: Today Robert has an army of volunteers from all walks of life And on this run, a handful of them were able to deliver 160 pounds of food in less than an hour. That’s enough food to feed 133 people. To see the impact these donations have, I pitched in at one of the shelters where RLC delivers food New York City Rescue Mission Scott: I can’t believe it matches my real hair The mission is a full service shelter, but the thing they do the most of, is feed people. A lot of people. CEO: We’re feeding in excess of 3 or 400 people every single day We have food probably we couldn’t afford to buy We’re able to offer to our guests really good meats, great desserts, well prepared vegetables It really is a special thing for our guests Scott: Until groups like RLC are able to expand, the Mission will still have to purchase the bulk of its meals A situation that is all the more ridiculous in a city literally overflowing with food Scott: Obviously buying that much food for 240 people a week is probably going to be…it’s not easy for any non-profit to handle. CEO: I’d love to get to the point where we don’t have to buy any food. There’s enough food in this city that’s thrown away right now that I know that could be the story. Scott: New York City isn’t the last stop for Robert and his partners. They’ve expanded to 12 cities already. But Robert doesn’t want to just save lives, he wants to save the planet. Robert: It’s not only about that fact that people could eat that food and not starve but also food waste contributes to a lot of environmental concerns. When food goes to a landfill it’s stacked on top of each other and can’t aerate which is why instead of emitting normal harmless gases in nature. It actually emits methane gases which is 20x worse than carbon dioxide. Scott: So to reduce as much waste as possible, RLC creates regular reports for the restaurants they partner with. That way their partners can see how much food they’re wasting and adjust their buying habits accordingly. …even if it means smaller donations for Robert But convincing restaurant owners is just the beginning. Retail food waste in only part of the problem A large portion of food waste, more than twice that of retail, comes from regular consumers So the next time you buy extra food at the store or prepare more food than you can eat Robert would like you to consider using that time and money to try and help others Robert: It’s my personal belief that there really has to be a big cultural shift But I would say that it begins with individuals and everyone can make a difference.

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