Happy World Vegetarian Day! Are you a lifelong vegetarian? A weekend vegetarian? A sometimes vegetarian? We’re celebrating you today.
You don’t have to eliminate meat for good to take pride in a veggie-focused diet, but even small decreases in our meat consumption (and in turn, our carbon footprints) are victories. Exploring vegetarian cooking can be quite fun and creative, as well. (Ever heard of carrot bacon? There are some real veggie Einstein’s out there!) Programs like the one our friends at Imperfect Foods offer can help spur your vegetable imagination with a fresh grocery subscription that lands right at your front door. Pretty neat.
We sat down with Madeline Rotman, Head of Sustainability at Imperfect Foods, to talk about food waste and what it means to go vegetarian in today’s climate.
Madeline Rotman, Head of Sustainability at Imperfect Foods
Dropps: Let's start off with a question geared towards what you do. Why is it important for us to embrace produce that is seemingly “imperfect”?
Madeline Rotman: In the United States, 35% of the food that is grown goes uneaten. And eliminating this food waste is the number one way to mitigate climate change. At Imperfect Foods, we source produce that may be oversized, discolored or overproduced, but just as nutritious and flavorful (and maybe more!) as the fruits and vegetables sold at conventional grocery stores.
We’ve also expanded beyond produce to look at all the ways “imperfection” shows up within the supply chain and have created a private label line that highlights all the ways waste would have otherwise occurred - from spaghetti that’s one inch too short to broken pretzel pieces that we cover in chocolate, it’s all perfectly delicious.
It’s important to overlook minor imperfections and blemishes and understand that these products are equally amazing and deserve the chance to be enjoyed too!
Dropps: That's incredible! Chocolate covered pretzel bites--yum. Do you think it’s best to plan meals around in-season produce? If so, why?
Rotman: We work closely with our farmers to source what’s in season and what they might have in surplus. This not only helps us support our farmers during their harvest but it also ensures that produce is at its peak in taste and freshness. We recommend cooking with in-season produce as much as possible, but you can always throw in pantry staples like canned tomatoes or beans to stretch your meal.
Dropps: What produce is in season right now?
Rotman: In the fall, we love using root vegetables, like turnips, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and our limited edition Fall items. Our root & tuber chips and sweet potato hummus are some of the season front runners. Fruit such as our specially packed scarred pomegranates and small pears - we love them no matter what their quirky outsides look like.
Dropps: Nothing wrong with quirky. What do you think it means to be a vegetarian in 2021 after an increase in climate awareness?
Rotman: Consumers are becoming more aware of how their eating and purchasing habits affect their bodies and the environment. Maintaining a vegetable-forward diet is certainly one of the ways consumers can help address climate change. Our mission at Imperfect Foods is about creating a more sustainable food system, and that includes addressing the effects on the environment. We’ve committed to being a Net Zero company by 2030, ten years earlier than major retailers. Other small steps can be taken too, such as returning your Imperfect Foods gel packs and insulated silver liners to us through our Packaging Return Program - we want to help you eliminate all food and other waste from your kitchen.
Dropps: In what ways do you see food and community tied together?
Rotman: Food brings people together; it’s something to be shared and celebrated and that, in turn, cultivates community. At Imperfect Foods, our service and mission brings together a community of like-minded shoppers and unites us all around a larger, collective goal to eliminate food waste and build a better food system.
Dropps: That's incredibly empowering. What’s something simple that we can all do to decrease global food waste?
Rotman: Eliminating global food waste starts with taking an audit of your day to day and making simple changes that can have a larger impact. One of the easiest ways to decrease food waste is by meal prepping. When you’re doing your weekly shop, only buy exactly what you need for the week. That way, you’ll use only what you have and need. With things that are already in your kitchen, get creative! Pickling and freezing produce and vegetables are another simple way to extend the shelf life of food, as well as knowing how to properly store produce (we give every Imperfect Foods shopper a handy storage guide when they join.)
Dropps: Does Imperfect Foods have a most popular fruit or vegetable? And perhaps a favorite recipe to go along with it?
Rotman: Our blog, The Whole Carrot, has some amazing recipes. We recently partnered with Padma Lakshmi, and the recipe we’re particularly loving right now is her Thai Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk. It’s the perfect dish for fall - hearty, seasonal, and delicious!
Dropps: That soup recipe makes us want to do a little dance! Thank you so much for joining us, Madeline. We are sufficiently hungry and inspired.
However you choose to spend this day and usher in fall, we hope you’re able to explore food options that support health and vitality for our bodies and for this planet we call home. Going apple picking, or prepping to use a bundle of apples from your produce box? Check out this list of recipes and crafts to give you some ideas. And if you end up with dirty dishes after all this good eating, we've got you covered.