On Sunday, September 8th from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm at Washington Park, For The Love of Food: A Free Foodie Fest will take place. Hosted by the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District and partner La Soupe, the event will feature activities and demonstrations to delight participants’ senses while teaching them about food waste reduction.
“We’re focused on preventing the wasting of food and educating people on how to creatively use food,” says Jenny Lohmann, program specialist for Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste. “Creative cooking, using your leftovers, using your freezer — these are the underlying messages.”
The idea for this event came from Lohmann’s increased sense of urgency after reading a report in 2014 by the National Resources Defense Council entitled Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill. Additionally, the following year, the EPA and USDA announced a national goal of reducing food waste 50% by the year 2030. According to Lohmann, the proposed goal was not supported by any funding, leaving local, grassroots efforts to take the lead in their respective communities.
One major draw of For The Love of Food is that attendees will be fed delicious meals created before their eyes using ingredients Lohmann calls “surplus foods.”
“About 22% of our landfill use, nationwide, is food. One of the reasons food is wasted is because it doesn’t look beautiful — what people call ugly foods, or what farmers call seconds. On the verge produce — we call that surplus food,” she explains.
“La Soupe will be there cooking and serving paella, or stone soup,” continues Lohmann. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish made with rice, beans, and other on-hand ingredients. “Whatever surplus produce they get that week, they’re going to add that."
Kroger, buoying its mission of eliminating the use of plastic bags in stores by 2025, is providing 500 reusable shopping bags that will be filled with groceries for event participants to take home free of charge. Attendees will be given a passport to guide them through different activities as a qualification for receiving these goods. Sandwich boards featuring anti-food waste messages will inform participants with fun facts while directing them through the various passport stations.
Other offerings will include salad made with greens donated by 80 Acres — a local, year-round, hydroponic produce grower. The salads will be dressed with vinaigrette made from spent grains salvaged from Mad Tree Brewing Company. Once an hour, salsa-making demonstrations will take place, and Plant Cincinnati of Madisonville plans to grill up sizzling, savory, surplus foods on a doublewide, pull-behind grill as part of the free food giveaway.
Aluminum water bottles will be dispensed to participants who pledge to discontinue their use of disposable plastic bottles. Greater Cincinnati Water Works will supply refilling stations throughout the venue.
Central YMCA is working to recruit volunteers for the event, and will also host an exercise-oriented passport stop with food-themed Zumba and Yoga activities.
Children will receive a special passport to guide them through kid-friendly presentations. Fun activities for kids and others include a Connect Four game and a Produce Petting Zoo.
“People can put their hands in a box to identify produce, and then they might have the opportunity to taste it,” says Lohmann. “There are many people in our community, kids especially, that don’t get an opportunity to see fresh produce in its whole state. This is also to help introduce people to different produce, because that is the number one thing that we waste in our homes.”
Lohmann says the Washington Park location was chosen, in part, for its proximity to neighboring food insecure communities. She expects to see attendees from all walks of life, and promises a good time will be had by all.
“We’ll have a lot of different things to do and offer to many different varieties of people, so you’ll find something that you like,” says Lohmann.
For more information or to volunteer, visit www.hamiltoncountyrecycles.org.