If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the United States and China, the United Nations says. According to World Vision, the world’s food waste could feed 2 billion people.

Around the world, we see a growing awareness of the enormity of our food waste problem.

It’s now illegal for supermarkets in France to throw away edible food. South Korea, a country that used to recycle only 2 percent of its food waste, now recycles 95 percent.

Illustration by Carra Sykes for the Goodnewspaper

Here in the States, up to 40 percent of food is thrown away — $161 billion worth of food in 2010, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

A San Diego-based company is finding a way to take food waste and turn it into something new.

Reyanne Mustafa and Kristian Krugman were working as servers when they noticed how much food restaurants throw away at the end of the day. Mustafa, whose background is in nutrition and sustainability, and Krugman, with a background in environmental science and psychology, knew they could do something to prevent throwing away so much edible food.

They started SoulMuch, a company that makes cookies with untouched surplus ingredients from other local businesses.

“This obviously isn't scraps from people's plates at a restaurant, but just their extra products that they have at the end of the night,” Krugman said.

They partner with local restaurants and food industry leaders — like juice companies and grocery stores — and collect leftover brown rice, quinoa, and juice pulp, dehydrate it in their facility, grind it into rice flour, and make gluten-free, vegan cookies free from artificial sweeteners and packaged in compostable materials.

Krugman describes the cookies as being a mix between a protein bar and a cookie — not overly sweet, “a satiating, healthy alternative in between meals.”

The two entrepreneurs started the business in November 2017 by setting up at farmers markets and now have an impressive e-commerce business plus several wholesale accounts in the San Diego area. It was their passion for sustainability — not a love for sweets — that led them to start a cookie company as a way to combat food waste. 

“Our mission is to reduce food waste while also showing a creative way to upcycle,” Krugman said. “We weren't a cookie company looking for a sustainable solution. We were frustrated at the problem [of food waste]." 

Mustafa and Krugman also hope to use their business as a platform to educate others about the importance of upcycling and reducing food waste. They see education as a core value of their business and integrate education into their displays at farmers markets, school fairs, and other events.

“If you make small, tangible steps, people are more likely to get on board, and you can make larger systematic changes faster,” Krugman said. “I hope we can help inspire others and show people that we can do things differently.” 

To date, SoulMuch has diverted more than 15,000 pounds of waste to create their products.

You can purchase SoulMuch cookies and rice flour on their website, soulmuchfoods.com.

A version of this story originally ran in The Food Edition of the Goodnewspaper in August 2020. The Goodnewspaper is our monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
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