By Latrivia Welch, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Before Sunday, October 19th, I had never been to the Mississippi River Park, even though I had driven past it a hundred times.
I had the opportunity to check a visit to the River Park off my city exploration list when I attended Reharvest Memphis, a first-year event put on by Clean Memphis and sponsored by Kroger Delta Division.
Clean Memphis was founded in 2008 to foster a cleaner and greener Memphis. Headed by Janet Boscarino, they champion green, responsible living. And they have developed a detailed, strategic plan, which focuses on engaging and educating communities, providing high-level cleanup of key areas, and implementing a comprehensive environmental education program that includes a focus on sustainability for schools and restaurants.
As a foodie, my interest immediately piqued when I received the invitation to attend Reharvest Memphis. Free food, great restaurants, awesome chefs, a chance to learn more about how to repurpose food – it all made for a great mix, especially for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I was greeted by a Clean Memphis representative, who gave participants recyclable bags from Recycle Memphis to deter single-use plastic bags for shopping. I netted a wealth of information about Clean Memphis programs, including Project Green Fork, which helps local businesses in the service industry operate more sustainably.
I also learned that the average adult wastes one pound of food per day, resulting in 365 pounds of food waste per year, which prompted me to ask, “What I can do?”
The answer was multipronged: consider purchasing smaller quantities of perishables, plan meals, shop with a list, grow my food, understand expiration dates, remove perishables from plastics, freeze unused portions to reduce waste.
My next stop landed me at The Compost Fairy. According to their website, the average US household creates 1,600 pounds of compostable material per year, and 40 percent of that is waste. For only $20 per month, members receive a fancy-up cycled bucket, with a seal-tight lid to collect their compost.
The bucket is picked up once a week and swapped with a new one. Twice a year, you get screened, finished compost for use in your flowerbed, veggie patch or to feed new trees and shrubs as they are added to your landscaping.
The food at the event was amazing. I had a chance to sample repurposed food from some of the participating restaurants. Chef Alex Switzer of 117 Prime presented repurposed food provided by Kroger.
“This is my grandmother’s recipe,” Switzer explained. “It’s been in my family for nearly 100 years.”
The dish he spoke of was a butternut squash ravioli, with potato gnocchi and Nonni GIannoni’s Bolognese. After a fourth portion, I was certain that it was the very best butternut squash ravioli that I had ever tasted.
I also had a chance to taste a little Mexican cuisine.
“I call this the perfect nacho,” said Chef Brad McCarley, owner of City Block Sulamaria and Venga, offering a fully-loaded nacho, with repurposed canned foods that he used to make a perfect bite. He used canned beans that were quickly approaching their expiration date and produce that needed to be used or thrown away to create something delicious and easy. He served the perfect bites on biodegradable bamboo boats.
“Think efficient and fun,” he said of the meal.
Memphis Made Brewing Company took craft beer up a notch by creating a beer made from bagels just for the event. With a rich, oaky taste that hit the spot, “I Bagel You Pardon,” was a smart and innovative way to show how every food can have at least two lives.
Teresa Dickerson, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Delta Division, said partnering with Clean Memphis to sponsor Reharvest Memphis meshes with Kroger’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste mission.
“The more that we share with people how important and how easy repurposing food and eliminating food waste can be for homes across the Mid-South, the more impact we will see on our larger communities.”
(For more information, visit www.cleanmemphis.org.)