Food in Film: "Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story"

by Steven Behling

Surprise! I love documentaries about food, especially ones where the filmmakers subject themselves to living conditions we're all too lazy or self-interested to try, like living off McDonald's for a month, going on a six-week juice cleanse, surviving only off of what we catch, grow, or hunt, etc.  Sure, I've undergone some bizarre culinary survivalist experiences in the past (The Great Ramen Cleanse of 1999 comes to mind), but unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), none on film.  

A few weeks ago, my mother joined me for a trip up the coast to the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.  A five-hour delay sitting on the Amtrak Cascades caused us to miss our first two films, followed by an irate e-mail from yours truly to Amtrak customer service, who forwarded said e-mail on to the Amtrak customer complaints department, which was followed by an e-mail from said department last Friday stating that they were having problems with their e-mail, and that they would be unable to respond to my concerns, but that I should definitely contact them if I have travel problems in future.  Madness.  Unacceptable.

Once our train pulled in to Pacific Central Station, the films we did manage to catch were, once again, top notch, particularly Just Eat It: A Food Waste Movie.  Filmmakers Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin decided that for one month, they would only consume food discarded by supermarkets and food distributors due to being sort-of-close-to-approaching a sell-by date, irregularities in color and shape of produce, incorrect labeling (seriously...several cases of Green & Black's Organic chocolate with an expiration date one year away were tossed in a dumpster, presumably because they didn't have labeling in both English AND French per Canadian law), and so on.  I know what you're thinking: "Ohh!"

Well-edited, funny-yet-poignant, informative, and nicely paced, Just Eat It provides a unique and credible voice in the growing discussion about how much food we waste, using precious natural resources to grow and distribute something that ultimately ends up not in your grocery cart, but in a landfill.  The answer?  Approximately 40%.  Many other facts presented in the film are equally staggering, including the statement that 25% of the food bought by consumers gets thrown away because it was not consumed in time, possibly due to poor planning ("Do we have any cucumbers back at the house? I'll grab a couple just to be sure."), improper food storage, and selecting meals based on what we're craving rather than by what we already purchased at the supermarket on Saturday.  Particularly surprising was the value of goods Baldwin and Rustemeyer salvaged in only one month of foraging through dumpsters in the Vancouver metropolitan area.  You'll have to watch the film to find out the answer, which, fortunately for you, is just beginning to make the rounds on the festival circuit.  Festival programmers and filmgoers, DO NOT miss Just Eat It when it comes your way.  Trust me, you'll leave feeling satisfied and wanting more.