Thursday, March 26, 2015

CIFF: 'Just Eat It' Examines Food Waste

Grant Baldwin looks out over a dumpster of perfectly good hummus
(photo courtesy of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story).

If you've ever avoided an imperfect-looking apple at the grocery store, filmmaker Grant Baldwin's examination of food-waste culture will make you realize that desire for aesthetic perfection is part of the problem. But it's only one dimension of a multifaceted quandary that Baldwin's quick-moving and insightful 74-minute film Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story does an excellent job explaining for those of us with last week's leftovers still hanging out in the back of the refrigerator. 

The Canadian filmmaker's documentary is built on a simple premise: Baldwin and his wife eat nothing but discarded food for a full six months. They start with a box of leftovers supplied by Baldwin's brother as he's cleaning out his home prior to a move, but it's not long before the couple are dumpster-diving for their daily menu. What they find extends far beyond the expected questionable-looking bags of lettuce and reveals a much deeper and disturbing side to the amount of perfectly fine food that is tossed away due to either store policy, appearance or mere convenience. In some cases — such as the discovery of a "small swimming pool"-sized dumpster full of hummus that still has more than three weeks of shelf life left — Baldwin can't decipher the reason for the waste. 

But the film goes beyond the food experiment at its core, talking to farmers, food processors and the like about the waste that is inherent in our food production. It starts in the field and wasteful practices continue up the chain to our homes, where an estimated 25 percent of the food we buy from the grocery store ends up in the trash.

Just Eat It is an eye-opening examination of our attitudes toward food. By the end, you'll never look at that bumpy grocery store apple the same way again. 

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story screens at 12:20 p.m. March 26. The Cleveland International Film Festival runs through March 29 at Tower City Cinemas. For a full film schedule, visit

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