Baldor Specialty Foods is one of the largest importers and distributors of produce and specialty foods in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States. Baldor has committed to providing high-quality fresh foods to its customers, and to giving back to local communities. Through the Baldor Cares program, the company supports local initiatives to alleviate hunger and food insecurity in New York. Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Baldor president Michael Muzyk about WastED, a recent month-long collaboration with Blue Hill restaurant to raise awareness about food waste. Baldor contributed food waste for WastED’s acclaimed chefs to transform into gourmet dishes.
Food Tank (FT): What are the major sources of food waste you encounter as a food distributor?
Michael Muzyk (MM): The primary food byproducts we encounter are from precut and recipe-ready produce we supply to our customers; it can be anything from pineapple cores to mango peels to carrot shavings.
FT: During March, Baldor Specialty Foods participated in the WastED project with Blue Hill restaurant. Could you describe how this collaboration came about?
MM: Baldor actually works with chefs like Dan Barber every day of the week, providing the produce and specialty items they need for their restaurants. We were very excited when Dan came to us with this new initiative. Like everyone in the food chain, we want to do our part to minimize waste and create a more efficient, sustainable food system.
FT: Baldor donated “food waste”—broccoli stems, mango peels, pineapple cores, etc.—that WastED chefs repurposed into gourmet dishes. Where do these materials come from and where do they typically go?
MM: These materials come from the food processing we do at our facility. For example, if we peel and core pineapples, the peels and the cores are the food byproduct we wouldn’t normally use. These are the kind of items Dan and his list of gourmet chefs are turning into delicious meals at WastED. These items are typically repurposed into compost, processed into water, or thrown away. Some food items are donated to charity. Last year alone, we donated more than 1 million pounds of food to charities such as City Harvest and the Food Bank for New York City.
FT: What are your hopes for this project?
MM: This project is one small step in the area of food recovery—but it’s a highly visible step, and it raises awareness and helps people understand that we need to think differently about food waste. I can only hope that other chefs will follow suit and start initiatives such as this, and I hope that everyone else in this food chain—from farmer to distributor to consumer—will continue to look for innovative ways to find a valuable use for food not currently being consumed. Forty percent of all food produced is not consumed.
FT: As a distributor, what strategies have you developed to reduce food waste? How do you anticipate carrying on the spirit of WastED through your work as a food distributer?
MM: Baldor has spearheaded a series of programs to combat the byproduct problem in the food distribution industry. Part of our management strategy includes a disposal system called EnviroPure that breaks down food waste and turns it into water. Baldor is also beginning to create partnerships with local farmers to turn natural food waste into compost, and we also donate a great deal of food to charity. Providing quality food to our customers, while always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, is at the center of all we do.