From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
Imagine all of the food waste that happens when you make a simple dinner for yourself or your family. Now imagine that food waste on an industrial level. Within the United States alone, forty percent of the food produced is never actually eaten. Yet statistics show us that 1 in 7 Americans are food insecure.
Insecurity in this sense means that Americans are making compromises every day to choose between food and other living essentials like utilities, shelter, and medical care. Food insecurity also means that you have limited access to food that will supplement a healthy and active lifestyle. Junk food, or any unhealthy product, is often inexpensive. While they can supplement diets, at the end of the day, they do not provide nutrition.
With food waste and food insecurity being such prominent issues in the United States, it’s a wonder there hasn’t been a concrete solution. That’s where Claire Schlemme steps in, coming up with an ingenious solution to fix both problems.
In her early 20s, Schlemme was diagnosed with cancer. It changed her perspective of health and began to wonder if there was a way to nourish the body while limiting the negative impact one left on the planet. She began to make Julia Child-esque cooking videos and went into the woods with her sister to learn about nature. These experiences would ultimately culminate into her inspiration co-fund Boston’s first juice truck, Mother Juice.
Mother Juice’s goal was to create nutritious and delicious juices and snacks on the go. However, Schlemme struggled with the company. It was both unaffordable for many and her production generated incredible amounts of waste. She decided to leave Mother Juice, and refocus on finding a way to better address food security while reducing waste.
She was able to meet this goal with her second company, Renewal Mill, which is creating a new superfood from soy milk. The food is a type of flour called Okara, which is made from soybean pulp that is left over and would otherwise be thrown away. It is both organic and non-GMO, and helps keep your heart healthy, your muscles strong, and your waist trim.
It addresses food insecurity by providing healthy and nutritious dietary supplements. The idea of Okara flour isn’t new. Okara has been used in various recipes around the world for centuries. Industrial sized tofu productions struggle with finding ways to dispose of the ingredient. Rather than send it to a landfill, Renewal Mill offers a sustainable alternative. The nutritional substance can be used in a variety of ways and provides almost no change in the texture, taste, and appearance in food recipes that call for wheat flour.
Not only does this help create affordable options for individuals looking to provide for themselves and their loved ones, it also helps the environment. By using a byproduct, Renewal Mill brings the production closer to a closed loop system. Less waste means a healthier planet. Renewal Mill has estimated that Okara flour has an environmental carbon footprint that is about 40 percent smaller than its wheat flour counterpart.
Schlemme and her team have a huge hand in creating a circular food economy that delivers value to both the consumers and the producers. Making Okara flour is not their only service. Their first product, FiberPro, combines the taste and nutrition of white flour and whole wheat. They also make byproducts from olives, almonds, grapes, potatoes, and pistachios.
The future for Renewal Mill is to continue making connections and reduce waste and food insecurity by providing creative and sustainable solutions. Schlemme’s dedication to addressing both the planet’s sustainability is demonstrated in the core principles she chose for her company. Renewal Mill is a Public Benefit Corporation, which basically means that the company allows the public benefit to be a part of the foreseen profits that shareholders will have.
For Schlemme, addressing food waste and food insecurity can be handled together through new and creative ideas. She tackles food waste head on, and fills the gap left open by governments, non-profits, and private organizations in order to reduce the impact on the planet and people.