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  • Writer's pictureAccokeek Foundation

Food Waste and Fun?

by Andrea Jones, Director of Programs and Visitor Engagement

The issue

Each year the average American family of four throws away $2,200 worth of food. Just think of what you could buy with that cash! And of course there are the environmental impacts. Most food doesn’t get composted the natural way, it ends up in landfills that are almost devoid of oxygen. That means that they never decompose. Check out these ten-year-old carrots found in a sealed landfill. They’re still orange inside!


And without the chance to decompose properly, landfill food emits significant amounts of methane that contributes to greenhouse gasses.

What’s really interesting to think about is how much this problem has increased in the last 40 years (by over 50%!) My parent’s parents rarely wasted food because it was too expensive. They really valued their food. They were taught how to can tomatoes for the winter and how to make delicious recipes from odds and ends that most people would throw away today. Why didn’t this knowledge get passed down? As an environmental organization showcases the lives of colonial Marylanders, we are particularly interested in the past, present, and future of issues like these.

Colonists dried apples to preserve them.

Colonists dried apples to preserve them.

The Foundation began to shine a light on the problem of food waste last fall during our Food For Thought festival. We invited four panelists to speak, including Alex Moore of DC Central Kitchen.

alex moore

Alex was so impressed with our creative approach to education that he personally invited us to participate in a much larger food waste event, called “Feeding the 5000” in Washington D.C. that occurred on May 18th.

What is Feeding the 5000?

Dozens of Feeding the 5000 events have been held around the world. The idea to feed 5000 people with food that would have been wasted was created Tristram Stuart back in 2009. Stuart, whose TED talk has over 1 million views, formed a non-profit called Feedback to organize these festive events. Why have a festival around such a serious issue?

“The way to really attract people to your movement is to make your party bigger, better, and more fun than the mainstream alternative that is causing planetary destruction,” says Stuart.

This is where Accokeek Foundation came in. We fancy ourselves experts in creative, fun, and experiential education. It was an amazing opportunity to bring our programs to a larger audience. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, was in attendance. Wow! In addition, we were joined by other high-profile partners like The United Nations, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Rockefeller Foundation among many others.

Our play “The Dating Game,” a comedic spoof about the myth of expiration dates, was performed in front of thousands.


We demonstrated the colonial practice of making apple butter from bruised apples. This tent was mobbed all day with visitors begging to buy some of this tasty condiment.


Our talented actors/interpreters kept things lively by dressing as damaged food (notice the band-aids) being chased by a giant trash can.

ugly-produce (2)

We engaged people in an anti-waste game called “When in Doubt, Sort it Out” which teaches the important practice of creative food re-use.


Director of Agriculture/Agriculture Education played the colonial Mr. Bolton on stage in a hilarious cooking demonstration with Chef Anthony Lombardo of The Hamilton restaurant.


Feedback Event Coordinator, Pascale Robinson had this to say about our involvement in the event:

“Thank you to the Accokeek Foundation for your contribution to the event. Feeding the 5000 strives be both an educational tool and a spectacle which engages all. This is why your contribution was invaluable. I wish all the events could incorporate the elements that you provided!”

For the Foundation, our push to reduce food waste will not end with Feeding the 5000. Look for the fun to continue with our weekend experience (“Waste Not Want Not: Saving Our Foods”) starting August 13th!

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