How would you manage living in Vancouver for 6 months eating only food that is to be discarded or has passed its expiry date?
This is the subject of the compelling multi-award winning documentary Just Eat It by engaging Vancouver filmmaking couple Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer. Along with a chronological journey of their half year of dumpster diving and asking supermarkets to sell them food marked for disposal, the film is interspersed with discussions with food waste experts from the USA and Great Britain. These bring to light the facts and figures of the reality of food waste around the world, starting with the stunning statistic that 40% for all food produced is wasted.
From the fields to our fridges and at every stage of processing and sales in between, more and more of the original fresh produce is discarded for being too large, too small, too ugly, too old, too inconvenient to harvest, process, package or sell. The excuses for the waste are as endless as the volume of waste. What quickly becomes apparent is that this wastage is almost entirely unnecessary.
Watching this documentary, it is easy to be shocked and impassioned at footage of industrial bins full of edible food, retailers acknowledging that their confusion around the multiple dates on food packaging results in needless waste, fresh produce being left in the field as it does not confirm to package requirements. But for me, one of the most remarkable aspects of the film is the calm respect, tact and dignity with which Rustemeyer and Baldwin speak of all those involved with the waste, never naming or singling out any corporation or retailer and acknowledging their own wasteful behaviours.
At the screening I went to, as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), the filmmakers participated in a question and answer session following the film. They were asked why the big agricultural and retail corporations wasting enormous amounts food were not named or shamed. Their response was that the magnitude of waste across the production, processing and consumption sectors of the food industry is such that none should be singled out for their contribution.
They emphasised the positive steps already being taken to address this issue, and outlined how we can all make changes in our own small ways. They promote food waste education, believing that if farmers, manufacturers, retailers and the average householder better understood the role they play in food waste and how each may effect change with more knowledge, we would be well on the way to solving this first world issue.
So take the opportunity to educate yourself at the Edible Gardening Project and North Shore Recycling Program joint screening of Just Eat It on the evening of Thursday 13 November 2014, at Presentation House, Chesterfield Avenue North Vancouver. **Now Sold Out!** Watch Just Eat It online.
Just Eat It won the VIFF Impact Award and Audience Must-See Award. The film also won director Baldwin the Canadian Emerging Filmmaker Award at the Hot Docs Film Fest in April.