Feeding the Hudson Valley Fights Off Food Waste

First annual event “feeds bellies, not landfills”

Kale salad with apples, radish, and beets.
Fresh fruit smoothies.
A mixed green salad with hard-boiled eggs.
Vegetable ratatouille served with an assortment of breads.

All of it seasonal, all of it local, and all made on site.

This isn’t the menu at the area’s newest farm-to-table joint—it’s the free meal that was served up at this past Saturday’s inaugural Feeding the Hudson Valley event, and it was all made from food that would have otherwise been thrown away. The event, which took place from 11 am-3 pm at the Poughkeepsie entrance to the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, was created in an effort to draw attention to issues of food waste and insecurity in the Hudson Valley.

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“I’ve never even catered before,” admitted Rich Schiafo, senior planner with the Hudson Valley Regional Council and one of the event’s organizers, who donned an apron that day to help cook and serve an estimated 1,300 meals to guests.

Schiafo, along with Dutchess Outreach, Feedback, Dutchess County Division of Solid Waste, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, and other area organizations, had coordinated for weeks to “rescue” ingredients from around the region. “We’ve worked with a bunch of local farms that allowed for gleaning,” explains Schiafo. “That is, to harvest their excess produce because they grew too much, or the stuff that’s blemished or otherwise couldn’t be sold at a supermarket. It’s wonderful food that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. That’s what this is all about: feeding bellies, not landfills.”

Food waste is a national concern (with about 40 percent of the food supply in the United States going uneaten, according to the USDA), but it’s just as serious of an issue here, too, totaling about 18 percent of what makes up our waste stream. What’s worse is that one in 10 people across Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, and Ulster counties are considered “food insecure,” receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and barely getting enough to eat.

Short talks about these harsh realities were given by area experts throughout the lunch, interspersed with live performances by local musicians, and chef demonstrations. “We served for about four hours,” Schiafo said, “but we could have easily kept going.”   

Don’t worry, though—any leftover produce from the day was given to area organizations, food pantries, and soup kitchens to be distributed accordingly to those in need.

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Interested in getting involved with this cause? Check out Poughkeepsie’s chapter of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine’s Facebook page for information on any upcoming events.

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