December 1, 2017

Looking to avoid food waste? Take this advice from a world-class master chef

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Chef Massimo Bottura, pictured here at a Netflix event in 2017, has compiled a recipe that can help cut down on Thanksgiving food waste. Photo by Michael Loccisano

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at

Free from food waste: Thanksgiving dinner usually results in a wealth of leftovers—but what happens after is a huge problem. According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, in 2016, the equivalent of 6 million turkeys was thrown out. The problem doesn’t begin or end with Thanksgiving: the same NRDC report found that year-round, “up to 40 percent of all food goes uneaten annually.” NPR reached out to chef Massimo Bottura—whose restaurant, Osteria Francescana, has three Michelin stars—for recommendations on how to repurpose those leftovers. “The leftover is a big problem if you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have the knowledge of what you can do,” Bottura told NPR. To address the problem, Bottura compiled a recipe that uses a turkey carcass, leftover bread, eggs, and scraps from a compost bin, among other ingredients. “The average household of four is wasting about $1,800 annually on food that they buy and then never wind up eating,” Dana Gunders, a scientist at the NRDC, told NPR. “Households are actually the biggest contributor to the amount of food going to waste across the country—more than grocery stores or restaurants or any other sector.”

Youth travel in Seattle: During the school year, five Seattle school districts offer students free transit passes, giving them access to the bus system, street cars, and light rail. However, when the summer ends, youth ridership drops precipitously as the free passes are deactivated. Last summer, King County conducted a pilot test of reduced fare youth passes for the summer, lowering cost of entry from $1.50 to 50 cents for Metro buses and to $1 for light rail. According to King County, which recently released the results of the pilot test, “Metro’s youth ridership increased to 376,000 boardings, up 35 percent from the previous summer. Youth ridership on Link light rail increased 42 percent while Streetcar boardings increased 25 percent.” Beyond just reducing youth fare, the city is working on a number of programs for low-income students, including subsidizing transit for students who require free or reduced-price school lunches. “[The pilot test] shows there’s huge demand and is evidence that one of the biggest impediments for youth is cost,” Rob Johnson, a Seattle City Council Member and former transit activist who pushed for the reduced-fare pilot test, told NextCity.

Community kitchen: 54-year-old Dolores Castañeda, a Chicago resident, noticed a gap in her community, and took it upon herself to close that gap. Homeless people in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods would receive food and shelter from local churches—but had no access on Wednesday and Sunday nights. On those nights, Castañeda and other members of the community cook food—tortillas, rice with chicken, sandwiches, and hot chocolate, among other foods—for the homeless, and distribute them among the homeless population. Along with food, Castañeda provides medicine, such as Tylenol and flu medicine. The homeless, she told The Chicago Tribune, “have as many talents as any of us.”

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project