Thomas McQuillan joined Baldor Specialty Foods, Inc. located in the Bronx, New York in 2015. At Baldor he reports to the President of company developing a number of strategic initiatives. Tasked with creating a strategic plan to make Baldor more sustainable, Thomas spearheaded the SparCs (scraps spelled backwards) initiative to reduce food waste throughout the company. Baldor’s sustainability initiatives are also focused on overall waste reduction throughout the organization and the company has launched a number of initiatives to become more energy efficient. McQuillan also runs Imperfect Produce, where he builds awareness to the value of imperfect produce. We decided to interview him because of his involvement with bringing awareness to promoting less waste and using seasonal produce, no matter how it looks.
Q. What makes you passionate about food sustainability?
A. Food is the most valuable asset we have. There is so much energy that goes into the creation of food. It takes the efforts of many people to get food onto your plate every day. The food system is dependent on farmers, truck drivers, accountants, distributors, warehouse personnel, mechanical engineers and many others to grow, store and transport food. If we are not going to consume food, then we should not grow it in the first place. Food that we grow and choose not to eat is often sent to landfill. Food in landfill releases methane gas. In the absence of oxygen food cannot break down and turn into soil so it breaks down slowly and releases gas in the process. This gas is harmful to the environment. So if we don’t need to grow all the food we currently grow, then we can give that land back to wild animals and lessen the negative impacts on our environment. This is why I am passionate about food sustainability.
Q. Can you please explain what the Imperfect Produce Program is, and how you came up with the idea?
A. Imperfect produce is any produce that does not meet very specific characteristics for selection in a farm’s packing house. In many cases, produce is boxed by size or color. Produce that is not selected is often composted on the farm of discarded. There is normally no taste variation and this produce provides the same valuable nutrition. We work to build awareness to the value of imperfect produce and hope that chefs and home cooks begin to request more of this product.
Q. Can you please tell us about your SparCs program?
A. At Baldor, we process over 1,200,000 pounds of produce a week which creates carrot sticks and minced onion, for example. As a result of this production there is food remaining. SparCs, or scraps spelled backwards, refers to any remaining food from production such as a carrot stick or watermelon rind. We decided that we needed to refer to this food product as some word other than scraps or trim or waste. This is food and it needs to be treated as a valuable asset that we can consume, feed to animals or compost. Food should never be wasted.
Q. How do you think kids can get involved in reducing food waste?
A. Children need to be taught to utilize 100% of all food. There is so much food that is wasted unnecessarily. Children need to be taught that we should never send any food to landfill for any reason. Children are learning that food that is wasted wastes all the energy and human capital that went into creating that product. WE can work together to completely eliminate all food that is currently sent to landfill. We can find more nutritious food to those who are food insecure, protect our environment and help create additional profitability for farmers. Children can help solve this problem.
Q. Do you have any new projects coming up?
A. Yes. I am very hopeful that we can eliminate the use of waxed cardboard in the produce industry. If we are successful, we can eliminate all the wax cardboard that is currently being sent to landfill because it is not recyclable. We also need to study how we can reduce the amount of plastic that is used in our society and when we do use plastic we must find ways of reusing it or recycling it.
Do more, waste less!
By Penina Langer, Seasonal Sammy App