Canada’s first-ever Upcycled Food Festival is showing consumers how food waste can be transformed into a tasty meal.
The month-long event was created by Provision Coalition, which works with food and beverage manufacturers to integrate sustainability into their business models. As Provision Coalition states, upcycled foods use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.
Cher Mereweather, president and CEO of Provision Coalition, says the Upcycled Food Festival was inspired by a virtual event the organization held last year, which demonstrated how to create a gourmet restaurant meal crafted entirely from ingredients that would otherwise go to waste. “Interestingly, Sunrise Soya was really inspired by that gourmet meal,” says Mereweather. “They reached out to us and said they have unavoidable byproducts from the tofu production and would love to explore how to create a meal from it.”
The two organizations decided to try to create a meal kit and started working with a number of different partners. Japanese-inspired food brand Abokichi, which already makes upcycled miso, was able to create ramen noodles from one of the tofu byproducts. The meal kits were rounded out with mixed vegetables, upcycled tofu products by Sunrise Soya, two-pack boiled eggs from Burnbrae Farms, and two upcycled muffins by Vision Bakeries—all packed in locally made, compostable boxes by Nature Knows.
From there, those involved in the project explored bringing in chefs to make meals from the byproducts, and the idea for the Upcycled Food Festival was born. “In a conversation with all the different partners, it just randomly came out, ‘we should do an upcycled food festival!” says Mereweather. “I said, ‘be careful what you say because I will make that happen. This was about bringing together an unprecedented group of chefs, restaurants, food and beverage companies, retailers and universities.”
As part of the festival, participating restaurants will do their own take on creating a delicious meal with the upcycled ingredients. Provision Coalition is also hosting a “teaching kitchen” with the upcycled ingredients at Ryerson University in Toronto, in partnership with Compass Group.
The meal kits will be sold direct-to-consumer (for those in the Greater Toronto Area) at FreshWagon.ca or UpcycledFoodFest.ca.
“The objective is to bring awareness to consumers about what is an upcycled food product and to eliminate what I’ll call the ‘ick’ factor,” says Mereweather, adding that consumers are unsure about products made from what was deemed waste. “We can show them a beautiful meal and it’s a wonderful opportunity to have that conversation about why there shouldn’t be any waste in our food system.”