Innovative food rescue efforts allow food bank to give away fresh food

Truckloads of surplus oranges destined for the trash in California are now making their way to homes of needy families in the Twin Cities. Fresh potatoes left to rot in Minnesota farm fields are now being harvested and given to hungry families. Unsold fruit and vegetables, bakery items and even meat that local grocers toss from their shelves are being picked up and redistributed to needy neighbors. It’s called food rescue, and Twin Cities-based Second Harvest Heartland food bank is a national leader in the movement. Nearly half the 97 million pounds of food that Second Harvest gives away each year is fresh. Increasingly, reliance on canned goods and boxed foods is a thing of the past. “It’s a radical change,” said Second Harvest CEO Rob Zeaske. The organization’s staff, many with vast corporate experience, are scouring every point of the nation’s food supply chain — from growers, processors, grocers and even restaurateurs. The goal is to identify possible inefficiency and wastefulness, and then persuade businesses to donate.“It’s an assault to our sensibilities in Minnesota to throw away food,” said April Rog, Second Harvest director of food rescue. “Businesses know it’s just the right thing to do.” The result is healthier, fresher food for Minnesota’s most needy families. The organization also participates in a Midwest regional produce cooperative with food banks in seven states. For instance, Second Harvest combines individual shipments of fruits and vegetables and then redistributes them so neighboring food banks receive greater varieties in the quantities that they can handle. “Food is medicine,” said Zeaske, who pointed out that low-income people often rely on a diet of less expensive starchy, high-fat foods that results in obesity and related illnesses. More than one-third of Second Harvest clients have diabetes, he said. “This is what hunger looks like in Continue Reading

Gather Baltimore: Providing fresh food to those who need it most

Even though gourmet and innovative restaurants thrive, and the region is teeming with renowned produce and seafood, large pockets of Baltimore are bona fide food deserts. The faces of the hungry are diverse. Whether out of work, between thinly stretched paychecks, or just trying to keep body and soul together, for some the area's bounty is out of reach. For so many people - both singles and families - it's like being a kid with their nose pressed against the window of a candy shop. How can there be so much food nearby, but nothing that's easily accessible and affordable? Between farmers markets, food warehouses, and incompletely harvested fields, hundreds of thousands of pounds of food would go to waste if it weren't for Gather Baltimore, a nonprofit that was started in 2009 in order to get healthy food to people who need it most. I learned about their (then $7, now $8) "blue bags" last year, when I found myself alone, without a job or money . . . or food. The bags are available for purchase to everyone; you don't need to meet certain income standards, show identification, or anything else. A lovely friend of a friend realized that the only things in my refrigerator were pretty much gourmet mustards and jams, the remnants of a different lifestyle and a different life. She told me about Gather Baltimore, but let me know that they only were open from 11-4 on certain days. She wouldn't be able to pick a bag up for me, since she worked during those hours. That was a problem: I have a severe driving phobia. They're located in the rear of a former mill building that now sells artisan, locally created food products. It's only about 5 miles away, but it may as well have been 100. I considered taking a bus nearby, but read that the generously packed bags are about 30 pounds, featuring at least 7 types of fruits and vegetables. Nope, I wouldn't be able to manage that on a bus. I traced a map of the area with my forefinger over and over. Eventually, I figured out a "backroads" Continue Reading

Subway’s ‘mystery meat’ and ‘mushy and rotten vegetables’ destroyed the ‘Eat Fresh’ advantage it spent years building

Kate Taylor, provided by Published 6:25 am, Monday, January 1, 2018 Joe Raedle/Getty Images Subway is facing declining sales and hundreds of store closures.  The chain — which long promoted an "eat fresh" philosophy — has failed to keep up with American consumers' demands for local ingredients. Franchisees and workers said that locations can only get one or two shipments of produce a week, sometimes resulting in "mushy and rotting" vegetables.  Subway has fallen behind on food industry trends — and it could be killing the chain. The sandwich chain's US store count dropped by more than 900 in 2017, almost three times as many locations as closed the year before. National sales declined across the US in 2017, people with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider. LATEST BUSINESS VIDEOS Now Playing: Now Playing Compass CEO among six killed in Sydney plane crash Euronews_News Teen entrepreneurs finding success through their own business Fox5DC Multiple franchisees told Business Insider that they expect the number of closures to grow in 2018, with one franchisee saying that the company's store count could drop by the thousands. Another said that up to one-third of Subway locations in the US aren't profitable. The chain is rolling out a new store design and remodeling locations across the US — a game plan some franchisees say has so far failed to produce results. "I can tell you that a large majority of the stores around here are for sale, even one of ours," one Subway manager said. "But no one is buying because of the high cost of the remodel coming up. Even the owners know that Subway is dying." After Business Insider published an article about Subway's closures last week, we received dozens of emails from customers, franchisees, and workers expressing concern and disappointment over Subway's food quality and freshness. Here's what insiders say Subway needs to fix on its menu if it Continue Reading

Why food trends are dumb

Omigosh, BACON. Bacon cookies, candied bacon, bacon salt, bacon bourbon, bacon lip balm, the Bacon Explosion (bacon lattice woven around a bomb of more bacon, plus sausage, lest we forget). Bacon remains the behemoth of the contemporary American food trend. Fueled by the internet, bacon went big, absurdly so, and bacon had staying power. It would wane, but then oinkily come back again. Food writer Josh Ozersky (R.I.P.) unpacked the bacon trend for Food & Wine in 2014, when, he said, it’d already been “a thing” for maybe a dozen years, and was still moving right along. He noted that the vogue belied bacon’s history as a colonial staple, and that bacon and eggs as one American breakfast, indivisible, was one of the first successes of public relations (brought to us by a nephew of Sigmund Freud!). Baconmania, he observed, arose in the late ’90s. To a generation raised to just say no to drugs and other risky business, the naughtiness of eating a bunch of fatty-salty-smoky-cured meat was tantamount to rebellion. The embrace of bacon was, according to Ozersky, “vaguely edgy but still utterly safe — a kind of culinary Coldplay.” The trend did, finally, stop. But do you know what’s still good? Bacon. (And soldiers on.) Wait! Kale! Kale Caesar, kale chips, kale crackers, kale toast, kale cereal (I made that last one up — I think). Kale could be seen as a post-bacon rebound relationship, akin to the popularity of the Paleo diet morphing to that of a plant-based one. But so many things have had their modern moments: cupcakes, doughnuts, quinoa, Cronuts, sriracha, pumpkin spice, avocado toast, rainbow everything. And why have just one trend, all sad and lonely, like ramen or poke, when you can smash two together to get ramen burgers or sushi burritos? Prepare your mind and your Instagram: The start of a new year is the appointed time for out with the old foods, in with the new. Internet Continue Reading

How consumers are transforming Minnesota’s food companies and economy

EARTH’S CUSTODIAN Jack Weber is relying on fewer chemicals to manage his farm in Hendricks, in southwestern Minnesota near the South Dakota border. HENDRICKS, MINN. Elke Richards drives two hours to Maple Grove every month to shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, both of which offer more organic groceries or minimally processed food than she can find near her home in Alexandria. In the summer, she goes to farmers markets for locally grown produce. For meat, she visits a local family farm that raises sheep and cattle using environmentally friendly land management practices. Richards, a 34-year-old mother of two young children, first took interest in how and where food is grown more than a decade ago, when she was in college. “I started looking at the footprints of how we get food to our plate in America,” she said. “It is really discouraging.” Today, Richards is convinced that making healthier food choices for her own family is essential. Millions of consumers around the world are making similar choices — to buy and eat food that is more pure and produced in ways less harmful to the environment. Those decisions in the grocery aisle are transforming the agricultural economy of Minnesota and the Midwest. Farmers are under pressure from consumers and food companies to adopt new techniques that take less of a toll on the environment, and to take better care of animals they raise. Sales of grocery shelf staples such as Wheaties, Betty Crocker cake mixes and some packaged meat products are flat or in decline, forcing food industry giants such as Minnesota’s Cargill, General Mills and Hormel to rethink the kinds of products they sell. Glen Stubbe STOCKING UP: Elke Richards of Alexandria, Minn., a mother of two small children, goes to multiple grocery stores, to farmer’s markets and even directly to local growers. Figuring this out “is the challenge of our time for the food and agriculture industries,” Continue Reading

Community gardens grow tons of fresh food for the poor in Westchester, Rockland

Thanks to dozens of plots in community gardens scattered across the Lower Hudson Valley, patrons of local soup kitchens and food pantries will be enjoying tons of just-picked produce this year. Along with the expected boxes of cereal and jars of peanut butter, they can now look forward to just-picked collards, tomatoes, hot peppers and eggplants, even homegrown herbs like cilantro and basil.Through its Plant a Row for the Hungry program, People to People, Rockland’s largest food pantry, now collects between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds of produce each year from community groups, home gardeners and local farms.Big contributors include Cropsey Farm in New City, the Rockland Farm Alliance, the Nyack Garden Club and ambitious home gardeners like Tom Brizzolara, public affairs director of Orange and Rockland Utilities, who regularly drops off several pounds of vegetables from his garden. “We call him the Zucchini King,” says Diane Serratore, executive director of People to People in Nanuet, which serves 1,400 families a month.“We really make an effort to get fresh produce to our families,” she says. “There are lots of hungry people out there and if there are new ways to put food on their table we’ll do it.”Every spring, summer and fall for the last 14 years, master gardener volunteers from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester have grown about 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and berries at the Demonstration Gardens at the Harts Brook Park and Preserve in Hartsdale. Every carrot, raspberry and cherry tomato goes to the pantry and soup kitchen at the women’s shelter at Grace Church in White Plains.“Before the end of the month, we’ll start delivering, and the last one is around Thanksgiving with greens, pumpkins, leeks and squash,” says garden co-chair Andrea Kish.They also use the planting beds to teach gardening basics to school and community groups and to test new vegetable varieties from year to Continue Reading

New meal delivery service may lead the ‘uberization’ of food

Forget going to a restaurant or tracking down a food truck. A new Downtown Indy kitchen delivers tacos, burgers, even pho via a high-tech system you could call the “uberization” of food.Indiana software mastermind Chris Baggott is behind Clustertruck, which launched March 29.The name cues a menu of fusion, American and international dishes that evoke the diversity available at food truck rallies. Think kimchi, short ribs and Thai basil tucked inside tacos or shrimp, andouille sausage and Gouda cheese on a Cajun pizza.Those are Clustertruck specialties, but the company also taps a rotating roster of recipes and training from well-known Indy brands. Expect Scratch truck, Bru Burger Bar and Goose the Market burgers and sandwiches.All prices will be competitive with those at restaurants and food trucks.Supplying fresh food quickly is the devil in food delivery. Baggott thinks Clustertruck software, plus custom food packaging and a tight delivery area — about a mile from Clustertruck’s kitchen at 729 N. Pennsylvania St. — will mean even french fries arrive hot and crispy.“It’s hard to keep a french fry fresh past about six minutes. But the reality is if you can get me french fries within four to five minutes, they’re going to be good,” Baggott said.Clustertruck works sort of like Uber, only delivery is free, no tipping required. Food orders and deliveries will be available from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. via the Clustertruck website that tracks the delivery person arriving by car, bike, scooter or foot. Customers know the exact minute their food will arrive. Clustertruck employs its own delivery team.Back at Clustertruck headquarters, cooks start monitoring timers as soon as an order lands. Touch-screen computers at each cooking station tell chefs what’s been ordered and how long until a delivery person appears for pickup.If the delivery person is 12 minutes away, and Continue Reading

Bourbon Affair to highlight local foods

As a showcase of everything bourbon, the Kentucky Bourbon Affair is intended to celebrate not just the spirit — but bourbon culture. And organizers with the Kentucky Distillers' Association say there's no better way to do that than by hitting on a recent trend: putting it in food."Cooking with bourbon right now is incredibly hot," said association president Eric Gregory. "... We have all the nightlife and the fantastic restaurants and chefs that know how to cook with bourbon better than anyone else."In its second year, the Kentucky Bourbon Affair has doubled down on food-focused events in an effort to create a more holistic Kentucky experience that features multiple of the state's well-known industries.The "bourbon fantasy camp" — running Wednesday through Sunday — will continue to offer behind-the-scenes distillery tours, but now also features two night events from each participating distillery, including many that involve food prepared by local chefs.Evening events still open to ticket buyers include an extreme cocktail tasting and dinner at the Louisville Mega Cavern, a "bourbonque" at the historic home of Jim Beam and a crawfish boil at Bill Samuels Jr.'s house. Other eating events, such as dinner with the Shapira family — who owns Heaven Hill — quickly sold out.Association ambassador Brittany Allison said many of the distilleries personally chose chefs to cater their events, but for the opening and closing events, the association approached Kentucky Proud for guidance.Kentucky Proud is a program run by the Department of Agriculture that markets fresh foods across the state. Program officials assisted in the Kentucky Bourbon Affair by telling organizers where they could find certain items and setting up chefs with everything they need, allowing the distillers' association to move from "providing food to having a culinary experience," Allison said."We're creating really a showcase of culinary offerings that compliment bourbon or Continue Reading

Calexico guys’ guide to New York’s best street food

Calexico serves up tacos ($3-$4), burritos ($6-$8) and other fare inspired by the brothers' hometown, Calexico, Calif., where American BBQ meets Mexican food at the border. Their carne asada is a signature recipe developed over months of tweaking. "There was a time," says Brian, "where every dinner at Jesse's house was a taste test." Check the menu at RELATED: CALEXICO IMPROVES THE A LA CART MENUAnd when they're not cooking, the guys investigate the city's other top street eats. Here's their flavorful citywide guide. Fauzia's Delights 161st St. and Sheridan Ave., the Bronx Fauzia Abdur-Rahman offers a fresh take on Caribbean home cooking. The menu changes daily, with dishes such as jerk chicken and grilled fish. "It's cool," says Brian. "It kind of feels like, Let's see what Mom's making today." Kwik Meal 45th St. and Sixth Ave. A favorite of the Vendy Awards, Mohammed Rahman "puts out a really fantastic, fresh, flavorful product every day," says Jesse. Frequent diners praise his lamb on rice. Soler Dominican Clinton St. and Bay St., Brooklyn (weekends only) Vendor Rafael Soler "does papooses," says Jesse, "which are like Dominican tamales." Soler represents the legendary Red Hook Ball Fields street-food scene. Arepa Lady Roosevelt Ave. and 78th St., Queens "She has this kind of mythical status," Jesse says of Maria Piedad Cano, who sells Colombian arepas in Jackson Heights. She is revered on the food scene but can be elusive, so check her MySpace page ( to find out where and when she'll be cooking. Sammy's Halal 73rd St. and Broadway, Queens Samiul Haque Noor cooks halal food "with great ingredients ... beautifully seasoned," says Brian. Noor has several carts, but the one in Jackson Heights is the flagship, and Brian loves trips to the nabe. "The carts are all lit up at night," he says. "It's worth a trip." Dosa Man Washington Square South and Sullivan St. Vendy Awards 2007 winner Thiru Kumar serves Continue Reading

Farm-fresh food – from Queens

The Queens Farm Museum has revived a long-fallow tradition - shipping fresh produce to Manhattan for the first time since the Great Depression. The Farm Museum recently sent a pickup truck laden with vegetables, herbs, honey and eggs from its Floral Park spread to the New Amsterdam Market at South Street Seaport. The farm also inked a deal last month to sell its produce at the Union Square green market one day a week, from December through April, said Executive Director Amy Fischetti. "From our point of view, this is really bringing us full circle," she said. Throughout the 1800s and early 1900s, the farm, which has been cultivated since Colonial times, was part of a Queens landscape dominated by so-called truck farms that shipped their harvests into Manhattan. But the property's farming days ended when its owners, the Stattel family, sold it to the state, which turned it into a psychiatric hospital. A long-cherished destination for school field trips, the Farm Museum, established in 1975, now wants to reap greater profit from the 11 acres it has under cultivation. "A sustainable farm located in New York City that direct-markets specialty crops could do really well," said Michael Grady-Robertson, hired this year as the museum's full-time farmer. Yields could top thousands of dollars per acre, he said. Shoppers at the New Amsterdam Market quickly noticed the freshness of the Farm Museum's produce, Grady-Robertson said. "We harvested literally minutes before we put it on the truck," he said. "The basil ... was so fresh people could smell our little vendor stand from all the way across the market." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading