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.
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 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.
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.