Most of us are guilty of it: Tossing a bruised or overripe fruit in the garbage or throwing away a hunk of stale bread. What about letting a misshapen carrot or potato rot in the garden?
Food waste happens all the time in America, and the Bethel Lutheran Church in Templeton is taking it to task by declaring August to be “Ugly Food Month.”
- FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
- DON’T WASTE!: August is Ugly Food Month at the Bethel Lutheran Church in Templeton, where a variety of speakers are lined up to address the congregation each Sunday on topics like gleaning and drought farming, culminating in an ugly food banquet on Aug. 28. All the services are open to the public.
Each Sunday morning at Bethel in August, locals with expertise in areas like gleaning and drought farming will talk to the community about the extent and impact of food (and water) waste, the efforts underway in SLO and beyond to combat it, and how to get involved with solutions.
“We’ve learned that 40 percent of food in America goes to waste—in fields and gardens, homes, stores, restaurants, and schools,” said Amy Beveridge, the pastor at Bethel. “Our hope is to grow awareness of eating as a spiritual practice, one that has positive impact for hungry families, drought-stricken land, and dirty air.”
The germ of the idea for Ugly Food Month came to Beveridge last summer after she read articles about food waste and the nutritional benefits of ugly food.
“With pomegranates, I learned that drought conditions trigger antioxidant production,” Beveridge said. “The fruit might be smaller, but it’s just as healthy, if not more. So the ugliest food—the kind that never makes it to the grocer—is actually the most nourishing to our bodies. That was the spark that got me thinking and talking with others in the church.”
Ugly Food Month kicks off on Aug. 7 with Emily Wilson of GleanSLO speaking on the topic of gleaning, harvesting, and the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County. The subject of Aug. 14 is “Evolving with the California Drought” and features rancher Kathy Marquart and winemaker John Anderson. On Aug. 21, Paula Wansa will address the topic of clean drinking water.
“Each worship, we will have a different focus, sometimes with short videos and music,” Beveridge explained. “One Sunday will include testimonials by members who are involved in agriculture about how they are dealing with drought. A lot of folks in our community grew up in a generation when you used your stale bread and brown fruit for tasty desserts, and we hope to learn from their creativity.”
Bethel saves the best event for last: an ugly food banquet set for Aug. 28. The banquet is promised to feature “the culinary creativity” of the community.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy misshapen potatoes or harvest split fruits from the garden,” Beveridge said. “It could also mean being clever with old stuff in your fridge.”
All of the August events are open to the public. Just go on down to 295 Old County Road in Templeton at 9:30 a.m. for the free education.
“These events are going to fun, and not necessarily super serious,” Beveridge said.
As a dream outcome, Beveridge hopes Ugly Food Month inspires community members to become supporters of public policies that encourage the consumption of less-than-perfect-looking fruits and vegetables.
“It would be really great if our congregation felt moved to think about those policies and feel that it’s OK to put this stuff in the grocery store,” she said.
Beveridge pointed out that in France, for example, there are laws that make it illegal for restaurants to throw away usable food.
“There’s very little of that out here,” she said.
• Dr. David Schultz and the staff at Urban Optics in San Luis Obispo were named as one of the top three “finest optical retailers” in the nation by Invision Magazine, the magazine for the American Eyecare Professional.
Staff Writer Peter Johnson wrote this week’s Strokes. Send story ideas to email@example.com.