MSNBC invited us to an advanced screening of the film Just Eat It, followed by a conversation moderated by celebrity restaurateur and MSNBC food correspondent Tom Colicchio. The foodie in me envisioned piles of the famous Crispy Bacon from Craft, or at least mounds of the Duck Pastrami Pot-Au-Feu from Colicchio & Sons.
It took about 30 seconds upon arrival to realize there would be no bacon. No tables filled with fancy cured meat. Not a snack in the entire place. See, Just Eat It actually promotes quite the opposite. It’s a film that details how much food is wasted in America each year.
The screening was nearly filled to capacity, impressive for a rainy night in New York City. MSNBC president Phil Griffin headlined a group of network execs, media members and people in food-related industries who wanted to catch the film before it debuts for the masses Wednesday night.
Griffin addressed the crowd, telling a story about a lone peach in his kitchen. The peach would have normally been tossed in the garbage because it was no longer at peak ripeness, but the MSNBC boss ate it anyway. He tells the crowd the film we’re about to see changed the way he sees things.
Just Eat It proved to be powerful, chronicling filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer as they give up traditional grocery shopping for six months and attempt to rely on food that would have otherwise been thrown out. They don’t just eat people’s scraps. The duo dumpster dives, settles for soon-to-be-expired dairy products and even negotiates with supermarkets to take their “ugly” fruits and vegetables that normally wouldn’t be for sale.
The documentary is beautifully shot. Well, as beautifully shot as rotting fruit filmed with time-lapse photography can possibly be. It’s educational and Baldwin provides enough comic relief to make it feel as if the film doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Following Just Eat It, Colicchio moderated a discussion featuring:
- Grant Baldwin of Just Eat It
- Dan Barber, Chef and co-owner Blue Hill
- Jonathan Bloom, Author of American Wasteland
- Elise Golan, USDA director of sustainable development
- Jilly Stephens, City Harvest executive director
It went well despite one outburst, in which a woman from the crowd told the panel, “food in America doesn’t taste fresh anyway.” Colicchio handled it well, but his facial expression made it obvious he disagreed with the woman.
Baldwin (left) was asked what inspired him to make the movie: “We made a previous film called the ‘The Clean Bin Project,’ where Jenny and I tried to make zero trash for a year. We were asked to do a waste audit with a bunch of school kids and so we basically dumped out their trash and went through it with them. We just kept finding uneaten food. A light went on. This is really something we need to look into.”