Archive for the ‘Community’ Category
This town is full of people who love food. From those that find joy in getting their hands in the dirt to the folks that get emotional about discovering the perfect food truck, we’re lucky to live in such a food-centric town. Our in.gredients team is composed of a whole bunch of food-loving folks, but team member Mark McKim is one of those individuals that is involved on so many levels it’s hard to keep up.
Born and raised in Texas, Mark’s relationship to real, healthy food didn’t start until college. Since his freshman year in high school Mark has lost 100 pounds, which kickstarted his journey. Initially Mark was focused on the health and fitness aspect of food and it wasn’t until a philosophy class his sophomore year that he made the connection between what he was eating and what was going on in the world.
Moving to Austin, Mark immersed himself in the environmental scene, getting involved in the food waste and recovery community, volunteering on farms and helping to revitalize an east side community garden. When he’s not working at in.gredients, he’s an after school teacher for BeHive Austin, a non-profit organization that provides after school programs for kids. He’s been with in.gredients since the beginning, and is a wonderful addition to our team. I sat down with him and asked him some questions about in.gredients, dinner parties and why if he were produce, he’d be a watermelon.
Explain your relationship to food in one sentence
Food is life. Eat to live, don’t live to eat.
Why do you love working at in.gredients?
I love the people and the social mission. I like being part of the movement to reduce waste and promote sustainable food. This place fosters a sense of appreciation of the natural world and healthy living. It’s great to be part of a community, place-based business. I love working with very cool, like-minded people.
What’s your vision for the future of our food system?
I want to see a system where whole foods are affordable and accessible to everyone.
What’s your favorite dish to make, and what dish would you like to eat before you die?
I would make a big egg scramble, with garlic, onions, kale and tomatoes and served on fried corn tortillas. This is a healthy meal that can be made with local ingredients. And the last meal I would have would be saag paneer with basmati rice. If I were to eat it in Austin, it would be at Taj Majal.
If you could have dinner with five people, who would they be?
- Issadore and Katherine, my grandparents
- Martin Luther King Jr.
- Michelle Obama
- Jamie Oliver
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
I would be a watermelon! I’m green on the outside because I’m environmentally conscious and red on the inside because I’m full of love and have a big heart.
It’s officially Spring in Texas!
With the new season comes some serious spring bounty. To celebrate, we’re hosting another Homegrown Revival dinner on Tuesday, May 21.
For those of you who haven’t heard about The Homegrown Revival, get ready to be inspired. This incredible local non-profit brings education and local food to the table. By hosting dinners, making videos and sharing recipes they’re educating consumers on how to prepare and consume fresh and nutritious food within their communities.
We can’t think of a better partner to share in our love of food. Come join us for our spring dinner where Chef Sonya Cote will be sourcing produce from our Urban Patchwork garden and other nearby farms. Watch as she turns food into art and dishes up a fresh, healthy and local dinner for every lucky guest. To make the dinner even more exciting, the one and only Tink Pinkard will join us with some “big fish” stories contributing whatever protein he happened to procure that week.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get better, it does. We’re teaming up with the Homegrown Revival to offer up the opportunity to win two tickets to this meal. During the month of April, stop by in.gredients to pick up your in.gredients loyalty card. Every time you spend $15 or more at in.gredients, you get a stamp. At the end of the month, turn in your loyalty card and whoever has collected the most stamps will win two tickets to the spring Homegrown Revival dinner at in.gredients (that’s a $130 value!)
Let’s celebrate the return of spring and gather around local food. Tickets for the dinner are $65, and can be purchased here. Please know that this dinner will be filmed as part of a cooking show, so feel free to come dressed… well, exactly how you are because that’s why we love you.
If you’ve ever stopped by the store and heard some soulful singing echoing off the walls, followed by a big smile, you’ve probably had the pleasure of meeting Quinn. This gentleman embodies southern hospitality, and after chatting with him you’ll leave the store feeling just a little bit happier then when you came in. Born and raised in Texas, Quinn is a “good ol’ Texas boy.” Besides being a part of our fantastic in.gredients team, Quinn is immersed in the Austin music scene, playing guitar and singing in Big Ol’ Band. He’s a ray of sunshine around here, and we’re excited for y’all to get to know him a little bit better.
Why is sustainability important to you?
We have to find the balance in life and there’s no better way than to find sustainability in the way you live. If we don’t, we have a generational degeneration that eventually will rob the ones to come after us of the beauty we have now, the beauty that’s left. So why not start with a ripple and end with a wave? Also, sustainability is a point of pride for me, I love to show off my garden, compost and inspire people to do the easy things that can actually make a difference.
Why do you love working at in.gredients?
I love in.gredients for the people, the employees and patrons alike. The commitment to the idea and purposeful execution just brings a smile to my face. Not to mention the community that it’s cultivated and friendships it’s started, it’s just a beautiful thing to watch.
What is your vision for in.gredients, Austin and the world when it comes to food? What would you like to see our food system look like?
I love seeing produce on the shelf from our neighbors and friends. As we grow I’ve seen more and more people begin to grow their own food and to have a smattering of neighborhood food is amazing. I’d like to see that program expand, as it’d be a good beacon for anyone interested to see that this can actually work.
What is your favorite dish to make, and the dish you’d like to eat before you die?
Woah! Loaded question… Favorite to eat? Hands down, chicken marsala. To cook? A feast! I love to cook for a large group, but don’t have one dish that I specialize unless you count fried eggs, but that’s hardly a “dish” so…. steak.
Thank you to all those who voted online and in the store! After two weeks of voting, we’re proud to announce that Empower Art is our next community non-profit partner.
Empower Art is an emerging non-profit organization in Austin, TX dedicated to helping at-risk youth through the creative arts. Empower Art facilitates healing and empowerment for adolescent survivors of family and sexual violence and other marginalized populations through various forms of creative expression. Empower Art provides an environment in which young people can learn healthy coping skills, self-expression and social responsibility through the production and performance of art, music, theater and dance.
Starting April 1st, in.gredients will donate $.05 for every reusable container that our customers use. We’ll also have branded reusable bags for sale (perfect for the new bag ordinance), with 100% of those proceeds going back to Empower Art.
We’re excited to support such a great community non-profit organization, and extend a thank you to all those that participated in the selection process.
Austin’s going bag-less.
29 days from now Austin’s Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance goes into effect. If all of this is news to you, here are some of the facts.
The ordinance, unanimously passed by City Council on March 2, 2012, regulates the types of bags that can be distributed by business establishments in Austin and encourages a shift to reusable bags. The ordinance does not eliminate all plastic or paper carryout bags, but it does set some requirements for the types of bags allowed. You can check out the nitty gritty details of the ordinance, including which types of bags are allowed, here.
According to some estimates, Austinites use 263 million plastic bags a year. Fewer bags will reduce the amount of waste Austin sends to the landfill, moving us closer to our zero-waste goal.
For many of you, this is no sweat off your back. You may be a reusable bag guru, and would rather precariously pile things in your arms than accept a plastic bag.
Since opening our doors, the only bags found at in.gredients are small recycled paper bags (for people who’ve forgotten their containers) and reusable bags of various types and sizes. Our commitment to being a zero-waste and package-free store has been well received, with our customers taking an extra step to bring their own bags and containers.
If the thought of not hearing “paper or plastic” at the checkout feels strange, here’s how to prepare. Gather all those bags you already have and put them in easily accessible locations- your car, your bike bag, your purse- so you’ll never be without one. If you don’t have any reusable bags, get some from your favorite store or farmers market. Or if you’re feeling particularly crafty, you can make your own out of recycled materials (choose something heavy duty, so it won’t break with the weight of groceries.) It’s always nice to have a small foldable bag that you can keep in your purse or pocket, so you won’t have to panic if and when you forget your bags (it’s bound to happen.) You’ll also want to make sure to wash your bags on a regular basis, avoiding food contaminants.
Moving away from single-use bags is happening internationally. In 2009, the United Nations Environmental Program called for a worldwide ban on lightweight plastic bags. In some African countries (Mali, Mauritania, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Kenya) certain types of plastic bags are banned. Italy was the first nation in Europe to ban plastic bags, with France following suit by 2014. In other countries (Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Taiwan and some cities in India) certain plastic bags are taxed. Here in the US, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Brownsville, Texas have implemented versions of bag bans or specific bag-related taxes.
It’s catching on, and we’re proud that Austin is following suit.
To celebrate this step towards sustainability, Austin Zero Waste Alliance is throwing a “Bag to the Future” party on Thursday, February 28th at 8 pm. Come dance to the sweet tunes of Whiskey Shivers as we applaud our progress in becoming a zero-waste city. Stay tuned for the more details on the event. Here’s to a less wasteful future, everywhere!
(Photo: Chicago Tonight)
Here’s a statistic that will make your head spin. Americans waste 40% of all food. Meaning we throw approximately 165 billion dollars down the drain. And with all that waste comes pretty serious consequences. According to a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study this means that we’re adding 34 million tons of waste to the landfill, with 23% of our methane gas emissions coming from food waste. Our current farming system uses 80% of our fresh water supply and 50% of our land to grow our food.
Something needs to change.
Thank goodness we live in a city like Austin, TX where we are blessed to have people who care. We have organizations, businesses and community leaders putting their heads together to brainstorm ways to reduce Austin’s food waste. 2013 has been named the Year of Food Waste and Prevention, and this morning was their kick-off event. A whole bunch of brilliant like-minded folks gathered to talk about what food waste reduction looks like for our wonderful city.
Here’s why this matters. As food prices and food insecurity rises, our waste should decrease, not increase. According to the NRDC study, the amount of food waste is up 50% since the 1970s. So where is all of this food going? Let’s start at the beginning. On the farm 7% of food gets left in the field, due to the demand not matching the supply or the produce not meeting visual requirements. Even after the food is harvested, farmers sort through the food and cull produce that doesn’t meet the minimum standards for size, color and weight. Our high aesthetic standards for food is biting us in the rear.
The NRDC stated that one large cucumber farmer estimated that fewer than half of the vegetables he grows actually leaves his farm. This means that 75% of culled produce is edible, just not pretty enough to be sold. A cucumber is still a cucumber even if it has a few dings and scratches on it. You’d think that as consumers we’d realize that food is grown from the earth. It’s bound to get a little dirty, and that’s okay.
Here’s hoping we learn the value of a wax-free cucumber.
After the food is culled, it’s processed and distributed. This is where there are technical malfunctions that can result in huge batches of food being spoiled. This results from improper storage and refrigeration or stores rejecting shipments for one reason or another.
From here it finally reaches the retail and grocery stores. According to a Washington Post Article, a conventional supermarket tosses out $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables in a single year. We’re back to aesthetics, as a majority of stores would rather overstock their shelves and throw out the “extra” than look empty. They’ll also cull again, removing vegetables and fruit that appear sub par, acting under the assumption that people won’t want to buy produce that isn’t attractive. Then there is the matter of “sell by” dates. Conventional grocery stores throw out $2,300 worth of food daily because the products are nearing their sell by date.
Which brings the cycle to us, the consumers. Let’s start with the very muddled idea of the expiration date. Here’s something you might not know, that date on the label is not when the food goes bad, it’s the date when the food is at its peak quality. Which means you can eat it on that date, and for some time afterwards. Because of our reliance on the expiration date, we end up throwing away a lot of food that is 100% edible.
We also are eating out more, and when we eat out we leave an average of 17% of our meal on our plates. All of which is tossed. What makes this even worse is that many chains have unnecessary regulations that require employees to throw away food. A well-known fast food restaurant throws their fries away every 7 minutes. According to the Washington Post article, such regulations result in 1/10 of fast food being thrown away.
Now that we have the facts, we’ve got to come up with some solutions. Dana Gunder from the NRDC pointed to awareness, portion sizes and education. Britain has managed to reduce their waste by 18% in the past five years through their public awareness campaigns and retailer resolutions. We can do the same. On a personal level that may look like adjusting your views on expiration dates and utilizing your freezer more. On a systemic level it could look like a large-scale study that characterizes what’s happening at each level of food production and consumption. Gunder also suggests standardizing date labeling. She recommends following in Europe’s foot steps, who has set the lofty goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2020.
The bottom line is that we need to foster a culture that values our food.
Which bring us back to Austin, where 2013 has been declared the year of Food Waste Prevention and Recovery. The goal is to build a stronger local food system that enhances the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of Austin and Central Texas. The plans to achieve this goal includes expanding waste diversion rates and services, increasing composting for homes and businesses and improving recycling of materials and food scraps in public places and at public events.
At in.gredients, food waste prevention is a key part of our ethos. We encourage people to be mindful about their shopping, buying only what they need. In our six months of business we have sent zero pounds of food waste to the landfill. This is attainable through our composting, recycling and reuse methods. We look for as many ways as possible to use all the food that we have in the store.
We like to think of ourselves as an example for the zero food waste initiative in Austin. It’s an achievable goal and we have incredible community organizations that are doing outstanding work in the mission to reduce food waste. We tip our hats to the East Side Compost Pedallers, Food Recovery Network, Keep Austin Fed, Compost Coalition, Food is Free, Food Not Bombs and especially Break It Down Austin, our commercial composting and recycling partner.
Let’s keep food on the table and out of the landfill, shall we?
Discovering non-profits that are working to end hunger make our collective hearts swell. Even better is when we stumble on a new, Austin based organization. We can’t hide our giddiness about Halfsies, a local non-profit that’s looking to address obesity, food waste and hunger. They’re looking to do this through a simple initiative that would allow you to “go halfsies” when you go out to eat. This means you’d receive a smaller portion (addressing obesity and food waste) and 25% of your meal cost would be donated to local and global non-profits (hunger).
It’s common knowledge that obesity and food waste are issues in the United States, but the numbers are shocking. First of all, recent studies have shown that when people are given larger food portions, they’ll over eat without realizing it. Beyond that, about 40% of the food produced in the United States isn’t consumed. Americans waste 50% more food today than in 1974. Of all the food we waste, if 5% of those scraps were recovered we could feed 4 million people, 25% would feed 20 million.
And it doesn’t just stop when the food is thrown in the garbage. Once the food gets to the landfill, it generates methane, the greenhouse gas that is 23 times as potent as carbon dioxide in trapping heat. And in a 2009 study the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases concluded that each year a quarter of U.S. water consumption and more than 300 million barrels of oil (4% of U.S. oil consumption) go into producing and distributing food that ultimately ends up in landfills.
On top of all that waste is the obesity epidemic that is spreading across the United States.
To try to understand our obesity rates, all you have to do is look at the amount of food on your plate at most restaurants. In the 1970′s around 47% of Americans were overweight or obese, we’re now looking at a 66% obesity rate. For the first time in history, American children could have shorter life spans than their parents due to obesity. Two slices of pizza 20 years ago was 500 calories, today it’s 850 calories. A hamburger used to be 333 calories, today it’s 590 calories. Our portions are getting bigger, so are our waistlines.
With all of this comes the problem of food insecurity. Thanks to our current system, what’s most available in the U.S. is processed food, the kind that leaves us with a lot of calories and not a lot of nutrition. In 2009 50.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, with 17.2 million of those being children. Looking at it from a local level, 43% of Travis county residents have incomes below the poverty level and have trouble providing enough food for themselves and their families.
Sometimes seeing the numbers helps to paint the picture. The next step is figuring out what we can do to reduce these outrageous statistics. That’s where halfsies come in. They want to help in a unique way, offering up a simple way for the general public to help in the fight against hunger and obesity. Still in the beginning phases, they’re in the process of getting partner restaurants in Austin. Check out their website, Twitter and Facebook for more information.
We were all at the Homegrown Revival dinner because we love food. This was apparent as the big smiles mingled with the occasional gasps and applause when the food was presented.
Started in Austin, the Homegrown Revival exists to educate, inspire and get people talking about local, farm grown food. Using community building events such as pop up dinners, they gather people together to enjoy a meal prepared by Austin’s own Sonya Cote – owner of the Hillside Farmacy.
These pop up dinners feature all things local. The dinner hosted at in.gredients last night featured produce from Tecolote farm while the meat was hunted and prepared by Tink, the Revival’s outfitter.
When you have a dinner that is sourced from nearby, you get to know its story. Before digging into the plate of heavenly scented duck and deer, we learned exactly where the meat came from, and got to shake hands with the hunter.
We’ve come to the conclusion that local tastes better.
Living in the urban farm hub that is Austin, chef Sonya Cote takes the idea of farm-to-table dining to a whole new level. As a nationally recognized chef, Sonya’s food is breathtaking (in every sense of the word). When you eat one of her creations, you can taste the thought, energy and understanding that went into the dish. I had no idea that a cauliflower gratin could taste that amazing. During the dinner, five courses were served, family style, over two hours. This invited people to meet and share in all things delicious.
Food really does bring people together, and with organizations like the Homegrown Revival you get to discover what local tastes like on a whole new level. With monthly pop-up dinners, as well as a variety of other events, there is always something to look forward to. You can find more information about the organization here, and make sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter so you can jump on a ticket when the next dinner is announced.