Composting: Roadhouse

20171113 Roadhouse

At Roadhouse, where dinners are often cooked communally and a community garden is right next door, most food ends up useful in one way or another. Food enters the house through a variety of means — chain groceries and farmer’s markets mostly, but eggs come from a local farmer and a certain amount is harvested from the garden. After meals are eaten, leftovers are packed, and occasionally the stalks and scraps of plants are frozen to be made into vegetable stock. The rest is returned to the garden as compost.

Once it hits the compost pile, which is rarely more than a few days after it is used, residents layer their leftovers with horse bedding for added nutrients and volume. There it rests, along with clippings from the yard, for upwards of a year until the community spreads it back over the garden.

This is the beginning — or perhaps the middle — of chapter one of a new project, following food as it leaves the table and enters a new journey back to the earth. Along the way, helping hands shuffle this waste into useful tracks, allowing this precious resource to be consumed to its full potential instead of ending up stagnant in a landfill or worse. In small communities like Roadhouse and massive productions like commercial farms and cafeterias, people are working to reduce food waste through redistribution and reuse.

somerscales two

20171023 djscales // Jacob Somerscales

somerscales

Picture story: Reducing food waste through redistribution

I spent some time last weekend photographing Robert Morrison and Food Not Bombs in Columbia, Mo. Food Not Bombs is an organization which helps to reduce food waste through collecting, preparing, and redistributing edible food which commercial vendors will not sell. As Morrison makes his weekly rounds, he's happy to accept donations, and he's also happy to hear if a vendor has nothing left over to donate. "We're about waste," Morrison said "If you can use it, we won't!"

Robert Morrison collects excess produce — that which the grocery will not sell due to ripeness or defects — at a Natural Grocers on Saturday, September 9. Morrison collects this food as part of a local chapter of the national group Food Not Bombs, which helps cut down on food waste by collecting still-edible items destined for compost or a dumpster and distributing them for free in the community.

Morrison loads coolers full of produce into his van at the Columbia Farmer’s Market on Saturday, September 9. Many of the producers at the market know him well, and are familiar with his “Hello! Anything you’d like to pass on today?” as Morrison works through the market just before it closes for the day. Food Not Bombs in Columbia works entirely from donations, and even the coolers themselves were given to the cause.

A box full of produce rests on Sunday, September 10, ready to be cut into that day’s meal. Morrison doesn’t collect meat, or most dairy products, but will accept any produce which shows no signs of molding. Through collections at grocery stores, the farmer’s market, independent produce stands, and the local food pantry, Food Not Bombs moves boxes and boxes of food every week.

A box full of produce rests on Sunday, September 10, ready to be cut into that day’s meal. Morrison doesn’t collect meat, or most dairy products, but will accept any produce which shows no signs of molding. Through collections at grocery stores, the farmer’s market, independent produce stands, and the local food pantry, Food Not Bombs moves boxes and boxes of food every week.

Volunteers fill their plates at the weekly Food Not Bombs food share on Sunday, September 10. On Sunday evenings at Cafe Berlin, the group prepares a free meal with the food collected and other community donations.

Edible food makes its final stop at the Salvation Army Harbor House on Sunday, September 10. With Morrison’s help, Food Not Bombs collects food, distributes a large amount to homeless shelters in Columbia, prepares the rest for a free meal and food share, and then returns to shelters like Harbor House to donate the leftovers.

At the end of the night, a single tub represents — out of eight coolers, several boxes, and additional donations — the scraps and inedible pieces which are destined for composting at the 9th Street Community Garden.

The challenge for this project was to photograph an entire story with a single day’s worth of work. As someone who usually takes months for my own series, regaining a journalistic timeframe and deadline process was a departure from working comfortably. I’ve worked with Robert and Food Not Bombs in the past, and honestly the story of food waste and redistribution of edible waste in this community is a much larger story than a one day project. I felt limited by the immediacy of this deadline, and I’m excited to devote the true time required to follow the path of reuse in this community.

Outtakes:

Oliver Griffin and the Transatlantic Carpark Exchange Program

Recently I was part of a small group working with Oliver Griffin and Travis Shaffer to produce a local copy of the Transatlantic Carpark Exchange Program (TaCEP). Oliver is an artist from the U.K. who is helping these small patches of tarmac to travel the world. I've been fortunate enough to help. These are my images which were included in the United States zine.

20170915