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The Preservation Kitchen

How might we extend the life of food already in the food chain.

Photo of Tiger Buchman

Written by

A way to extend the usability and nutrition of food that is already in the chain.  Can happen at any level where food waste may occur from the farm to food that is not perfect enough to be sold by supermarkets.  This idea has 3 parts: first would be a commercial kitchen where food can be handled and processed for the consumption of others.  Second would be a program or app that would make suggestions of best use based on what ingredients are available.  Third would be simple recipes in multiple languages that would give ideas on how to use products received in a culturally relevant way. 

The Kitchen

These would be commercial kitchens placed in locations central to wherever food waste is happening.  They will have the larger supplies and necessary sterilization equipment so that these foods can be prepared: canned, pickled, frozen, dehydrated.  They will eventually go to food banks and distributed to people in need. 

These kitchens can be staffed directly by those who are in need or volunteers.  Workers/volunteers would need to be trained/certified in safe food handling practices, but this is a requirement for serving staff in many states to work in either bars or restaurants.  It can either be seen as redundant (they already have the knowledge), or be in line with job training (they can now obtain those types of jobs without further training).  The idea is that people who use the food bank can help prepare the food for both themselves and others.  Volunteers can either bank their hours for future need, or can gift their hours to those in need who for whatever reason cannot work. 

The App

The App would provide ideas of best use in how to best preserve any given abundance.  It would work like many recipe programs that can be found online now, where you can type in the list of ingredients you have on hand and it gives you back suggested recipes or processes that can be used for preservation.  For instance, what can a person do with slightly wilted lettuce?  maybe the answer is to dehydrate it for a low calorie, high nutrient, flavorful soup additive?  How do you preserve milk about to go bad?  Turn it into cheese (ricotta, mozzarella, paneer).  How do you preserve cheese about to go bad?  Well, use it in a meal that can then be frozen and defrosted by portion size. 

Many cultures use various food preservation techniques and that knowledge may have been lost, or never known to present populations.  This is a chance to introduce those techniques to a larger population that could benefit from that knowledge.  It is also a chance to provide many ethnic populations with food that is more familiar to them and easier for them to prepare.  Often times these populations are given items that are key to an American diet and they do not know how to prepare them.  It is also a way to provide assimilated populations with an exotic specialty that they may enjoy or a chance to try something new in a familiar way.  One complaint that many people who visit food pantries have is that there is a great redundancy in the types of foods they receive.  This App can also be used to make sure there is less redundancy.  For example, Sauerkraut & Kimchee are both preserved forms of cabbage, all that really differentiates them are the spices added. 

The Recipes

Some cultures may not have a strong history of food preservation.  To help them assimilate some of these new foods, recipes can be provided showing how to introduce them in culturally relevant ways.  For instance, if a Mexican family is given a jar of Kimchee, what are some things that they can use it for?  It can be used to flavor Mondogo (tripe soup), or used in the center of a tamale for an original taste combination.  The Food Bank can put together some recipe boxes like those supplied by many online retailers today and accompanied by a list of low cost ingredients that could be purchased to complete the recipes. 


Most food banks can't accept home canned or preserved foods due to fears of botulism (all other forms of failed preservation can be viewed or smelled).  But if we provide a commercial kitchen, this fear can be almost eliminated.  It can also be done at every stage food waste occurs, from the farm to restaurants to grocery stores to post consumer.  And we can even talk about turning some of this waste into pet food and barring all of those uses, it can be easily composted.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

A class on different forms of food preservation and see how doable or time intensive this might be. Learn what is the cost for non-donated ingredients (items needed would include sugar, vinegar, salt, canning/pickling jars). Interview food bank operators and see what might be the road blocks to this idea. Interview food bank participants of different cultures and see what their road blocks may be.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

IT expertise. People well versed in different methods of food preservation. Food bank managers who work with multi cultural populations.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm a trained Cognitive Psychologist who worked for 15 years as a secretary in a law firm. I also was the Creative Director of a charity I helped create called Pillows for Paws that used Design Research at it's core. What I'm learning about myself is that I'm a researcher. I like coming up with new ideas and I like testing them.

This idea emerged from

  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter

How far along is your idea?

  • It was in the works before this challenge – it’s existed for 2-6 months


Join the conversation:

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Tiger great to see what you came up with your team NYC OpenIDEO Chapter Food Waste event. I was wondering if you could put a visual, possibly one that will show the connection between the 3 parts of your idea. I think that could really help clarify the overall idea. I like the fact that you are using components of things that already exist (e.g. apps to find recipes with ingredients you have) but integrate them in a new way to address food waste. I find the idea of building up on cultural practices around preservation really interesting. It'd be great if you could start collecting information on this. It reminded me about garum, the Ancient Roman version of fish sauce which has been "rediscovered":
The kitchen element reminded me of an idea posted in a challenge on food production and food consumption a few years ago: I know the focus is slightly different than yours but you might find some useful ideas in that idea.
Good luck with the next steps!

Photo of Tiger Buchman

Yes, I will work on putting together visuals.  I love the article on the public kitchen.  Since I posted I have had hour long conversations about pickles I've never heard of.  It makes cultural relevance and those "grandmas" more important than ever. 

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard


I just saw this idea which I think is very close to yours:
Probably a lot to learn from it, and maybe a potential collaboration. Good luck!

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