Sustainable America Blog

Chowdafest Diverts Food Waste, Feeds Hungry

Chowdafest in Bridgeport, CT. Photo: ctbites.com

Although there could be only one winner last Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, it was a different story at a pre Super Bowl event at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where we had a “souper” time partnering with Chowdafest to make their Feb. 2 chowder tasting competition a zero-waste event.

Photo: ctbites.com

Photo: ctbites.com

Now in its sixth year, Chowdafest brought together 28 award-winning chefs and restaurants offering samples of chowder and bisque to thousands of hungry football fans before they retired to watch the Super Bowl. Attendees sampled great food while restaurants had an opportunity to showcase their talents. This year, Sustainable America jumped into the soup to divert the event’s food waste to composting, instead of where it usually goes in Connecticut: to an incinerator. And perhaps the biggest win of all was that both the proceeds and a large amount of direct food donations went to the Connecticut Food Bank to help feed the hungry.

Sustainable America volunteer helps sort food waste During the event, volunteers from Sacred Heart University’s women’s volleyball team and the Wakeman Boys and Girls Club donned our signature Sustainable America foam fingers and construction hats and manned 11 waste stations. They were on hand throughout the event to direct patrons on how to sort their waste and offer information about composting.

As we have honed our skills in the business of waste sorting over the past year, we’ve found that the hats and fingers make the volunteers easily identifiable. We have also found that clear signage is especially important so event goers can quickly figure out what goes in each bin. Patron feedback and the results at the composting facility clearly showed that customized signage greatly facilitates accurate waste sorting.

World Centric, a Petaluma, California-based manufacturer of compostable products, donated compostable drinking cups, spoons, plates, and 50,000 fiber cups for the chowder samples. Not only were these cups compostable, allowing for us to capture more food waste, they better withstood the hot chowder than plastic or paper cups, allowing tasters to sip and sample without burning their fingers.

Food waste from Chowdafest

All of this “trash” is off to the composting facility!

Together with All American Waste, who provided the dumpster and hauling services, we were able close the circle and divert 680 pounds of tableware and chowder dregs to New Milford Farms, where it will be composted and become a nutrient-rich soil supplement.

Momentum skyrocketed this year for this pre Super Bowl event with an estimated attendance of 6,000. Revenue generated through these ticket sales, combined with food donated by attendees and donations of leftover food from vendors will allow the Connecticut Food Bank to supply 20,000 meals statewide. When you factor in the food scraps that went to compost, this event truly made the best possible use of food at all levels.

Perhaps more importantly, this “Souper Bowl Sunday” raised awareness among attendees and participants, highlighting Sustainable America’s mission to reduce food waste as a means to increasing food supply.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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