Less waste, better taste
Winnipeg home-economist, educator and author working to reduce the amount of food tossed in the trash, help families eat healthier, fresher meals
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/10/2021 (356 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
With $50 billion of usable food in the trash every year, Canada is a leader in food waste.
Winnipegger Getty Stewart is working to do something about it.
Born and raised on a mixed farm in a small village in Germany, Stewart’s family moved to a grain farm in southwest Manitoba when she was eight years old, before her interest in studying human ecology and education brought her to Winnipeg.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but growing up on a farm where we were constantly aware of the elements of nature, growing and preserving our own food, harvesting wild berries and preparing home-cooked meals every day set the foundation for my work as a freelance home-economist today,” says the married mother of two.
Recognized for her work in the community, Stewart is also a public speaker, educator, cookbook author and good-food champion. Her work includes teaching people practical cooking skills they can use every day to make healthy fresh food at home. She does this via workshops, demos, TV, radio, newspapers, social media, blogging and developing new recipes to help make good food possible for all.
With the organization Love Food Hate Waste Canada reporting that the average Canadian household wastes up to 140 kilograms of food annually, Stewart has her work cut out for her. She’s been doing it by sharing knowledge and skills to raise environmental consciousness.
“Sure, the food industry has work to do, but so do we. We all have a part in reducing food waste,” Stewart says.
“When I started watching what food my family was tossing most frequently, I was surprised that sour cream was on our list. Because the per unit price is better, I used to buy the medium-sized container. But we didn’t always use the whole container and eventually we’d toss out the leftovers. Now, I buy the smallest tub of sour cream — it’s slightly more per gram — but it’s cheaper than tossing it. It may not seem like a big deal, but all the little things we do add up. When we become aware of what we’re doing and learn better alternatives, we can do better.”
Motivated by the sight of wasted food, Stewart found a way to help communities access locally grown fruit.
“My kids were little and we often strolled around the neighbourhood playing ‘I spy a fruit.’ We would marvel at the different kinds we’d find and were thrilled when a kind neighbour would offer us a taste. But it was disheartening to see how much of the fruit was never used. I was particularly struck by the sight of bagged apples waiting for garbage pickup.”
That led to the creation of Fruit Share in 2010, a fruit-rescue group with volunteers harvesting homeowners’ surplus fruit and sharing it between the homeowner, the picker and a charity. Together with volunteers, Stewart ran the program until 2019, when T&T Seeds took over.
“One of my most memorable workshops was when we co-ordinated an apple harvest and applesauce-making day with women from the North End Women’s Centre. A group of women and children gathered to harvest apples in the backyard of a grateful homeowner. Later we took those apples and turned them into applesauce, which we canned for everyone to take home. It was incredible to watch these women come together regardless of age, language, ethnicity or anything else. There truly is something special about how food brings people together.”
Whether it’s through meal-planning, canning, preserving, dehydrating or freezing, Stewart offers mindful ways to avoid food waste so more people can benefit.
Inspired by nature, its four seasons and what’s growing in her garden plot by the river and the one in her front yard, Stewart says it’s easy to decide what to make for dinner when you let the garden choose for you.
“In the spring, spinach and herbs beg to be turned into omelettes or frittatas. In the summer, when the garden explodes with colourful fruits and veggies, there are endless salads and sides to accompany a good barbecue. In the fall, winter squash are perfect for salads, soups and tasty desserts. And in winter, hearty root vegetables are a perfect match for wintery days with soups and stews. Eating seasonally tastes great and makes meal planning easier. It also supports local growers, saves money and may reduce food’s environmental footprint.”
Stewart’s workshops explore planning ahead, storing food properly, understanding best-before dates, buying less and learning ways to use up food before it turns bad.
“Our food and the environment are inextricably linked, every piece of the food chain impacts the environment, including what we do as consumers. It can be daunting to think of what we need to do to feed the world in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the big picture, a good place to start is taking action in our own home and finding ways to become more sustainable.”
With increasing interest in a return to cooking fresh food, Stewart sees people of all ages wanting to learn and practise new skills.
“The biggest challenge is that people lack confidence in their kitchen skills and are afraid to try new things. My goal is to offer practical, everyday tips and recipes to build that confidence.
‘Preparing your own food gives you ultimate control over what you eat. Not only about the flavour of your food, but everything about that food, including where it comes from, how it was produced, how it was packaged, how many miles it travelled, what store it comes from, etc. You get to eat food that matches your values and that always tastes good.”
The Stewart family enjoys regular meal times at the dining-room table, appreciating all foods… except brussels sprouts.
“We are privileged to have one of the world’s safest food supplies here in Canada. Everyone should be able to afford and have access to good food,” she says.
To learn more, visit: gettystewart.com.