Ripe for the Picking: Notes & photos

Thanks to all who participated in the 4th annual conference of Princeton Studies Food, Ripe for the Picking, and moved the conversation forward on the crucial topic of wasted resources in our food system. Thanks especially to our student team: Rozalie Czesana ’18, Korlekuor Akiti ’19, Madelynn Prendergast ’19, Daniel Shepard ’19, Alice Wistar ’20 and Eliza Wright ’19. as well as Pat Rooney ’18, who wrangles the Free Food listserv and Shun Yamaya ’19, co-president with Alice of Greening Dining.

Princeton Studies Food is deeply grateful to co-sponsors for this interdisciplinary conference: WWS-STEPKeller CenterCareer ServicesPrinceton Environmental InstituteAndlinger Center for Energy & the Environment, and Anthropology.

Thank you to Chef Jerry Luz and his team at Campus Dining Services for the beautifully presented conference low-to-zero waste lunch. And…we did it! Scroll down (below lunch photos) to see just how little wasted food participants scraped into the bins.

Here’s a collection of snapshots from the day, along with notes compiled by Rozalie Czesana ’18. You’ll see the notes are almost comprehensive (she had to jump out for class a couple of times). We will update as we crowd-source the missing moments.

From left, Kai Robertson, WRI; Princeton Studies Food co-founders Tim Searchinger and Gordon Douglas MD ’55.

Gordon Douglas MD ‘55 Princeton Studies Food co-founder, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and director of three biotech companies.

Tim Searchinger Princeton Studies Food co-founder and Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School and the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (WWS-STEP).

Kai Robertson, World Resources Institute.

Kai Robertson Senior Corporate Sustainability Advisor and Lead Advisor, Food Loss and Waste Protocol, World Resources Institute.


From left, Tim Searchinger, PSF, and James Rogers of Apeel Sciences.

James Rogers Founder & CEO, Apeel Sciences.

  • Food production problems lie in seasonality and perishability of fresh produce
  • Time lags in figuring out negative externalities (ex. Environmental effects of Round Up)
  • “Do more with less”
  • Currently $1 trillion food value lost
    • Long production chain
  • Apeel technique
    • “use food to protect food”
    • “Edipeel”
      • avocado, citrus…
      • extending shelf life without refrigeration, generally by 5 days on average
      • mangoes in Kenya (game changer)
      • reducing ice use for shipping of leafy greens
      • Avocado storage: air stays out, water stays in (dictating gas exchange…idealized microclimate for each kind of fruit)
    • benefitting the entire supply chain
    • global reach (US, Europe, China?)
  • “I have grown to appreciate mold…for its complexity”
  • New product for cassava (doubling shelf life) to be used in Kenya and Nigeria
    • Powder that can be shipped anywhere, then is boiled and applied to the fruits (not efficient in developed large scale production, but very useful for small-scale farmers in developing countries)
    • Cutting the fruit’s respiration rate down
    • “infrastructure in a packet”
    • “doubling shelf life is like doubling the speed with which a product can be transported from production to end consumer”


Kristen Rainey, Google Food


Kristen Rainey Global Food Program Vendor and Supplier Relations Manager, Google Food.

  • Google’s mission
    • Shifting diets
      • “veggie charcuterie”
    • Food donations in all countries where it’s legal
    • 95% effort in food waste prevention
      • scale + camera + data into the cloud à efficiency comparisons
      • tracking both post-consumer and pre-consumer waste
      • “you can always go back for seconds” mentality and messaging
        • the only issues is time, sometimes going back for seconds and waiting in line is not an option [applicable to Princeton? Not so much, because there really isn’t a line most of the time)
      • financial incentives to reduce waste
    • efforts to use underutilized species, especially in the realm of seafood
    • re-purposing (ex. Overripe bananas used for overnight oatmeal)
      • messaging regarding leftovers
        • you have to be smart about how you repurpose…what ingredients to add etc.
        • avoid the word “waste”
      • global partnerships
        • Toast
        • Chefs to end hunger
      • Importance of signage – both design, message AND placement
      • Exploring behavioral science to optimize messaging
        • Are you considering using automated vehicles for more efficient food donations (automated matching) à app
      • *Drawdown: comprehensive plan to reduce global warming

Melissa Donnelly, Campbell’s Soup

Melissa Donnelly Manager Sustainability Integration, Campbell Soup.

  • sustainability at Campbell’s – real food philosophy
    • ethical and sustainable sourcing
      • sourced
      • grown
      • shared
      • produced
    • food waste
      • target: reduce food waste by 50% in global manufacturing by 2030
      • measure
      • act
        • food waste audits
        • prevention
        • recovery
        • recycling
      • processing of all food and beverages
      • US, Canada, Asia, Denmark
      • Working to eliminate packaging
      • Own tomato production (ingredient optimization as prevention)
        • Leftovers used for animal feed
        • Peppridge farm – collect unsaleable bread for animal feed/breadcrumbs production
        • Equipment to de-package unsaleable product à animal feed
        • Exploring ways to use tomato peels and seeds (they are high in nutrients)
      • Consumer engagement
        • Awareness
        • Available solutions
        • Sustainability report here

Princeton Studies Food
2018 Conference Menu

Wild mushrooms with white beans, sautéed kale, parmesan and roasted garlic
Brown basmati rice 

Roasted cauliflower with butternut squash, portobello mushrooms
Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary

Fennel salad with roasted Hubbard squash and roasted Stayman-Winesap apples
Apple cider vinaigrette

Shaved tri-color carrots with kale, shaved Brussels sprouts and cabbage
Sriracha vinaigrette

Tossed salad greens with halved grape tomatoes and wild mushrooms
Roasted shallot vinaigrette

Lillipies pumpernickel mini rolls
Sweet organic butter




Forrest Meggers, PU-Architecture-Andlinger 


Forrest Meggers Assistant Professor of Architecture and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, Princeton University.

  • Campus as a living lab; Designing sustainable systems
  • The internet of things
  • Bio-digester on campus
    • Food recovery
    • Pushing data out (use the internet of things)
  • Food waste weigh-ins – real time tracking?
  • Opportunitarian diet (like free food listserve)


Dan Rubenstein, PU-EEB

Dan Rubenstein Professor of Zoology; Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Director, Program in African Studies, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Professor, Human Diet, Agriculture and Climate course, Princeton University.

  • Food production consumption feedback loop
  • We can produce enough calories and will be able to do so for years ahead…but what are the costs of that?
  • Fundamental problem – returning nutrients back to the soil
  • Recycling
    • Waste: weeds, pests, perishability, spoilage, uneaten
    • Recycling: manure, compost, digester
  • Food forensics discovering lies within the system
    • Marketing salmon as steelhead trout

Alice Wistar ’20, moderator


  • Importance of learning how to work with real data and asking the right questions
  • Mining big data à reframing the question à getting answers
  • Different cultivars of the same vegetables used for different channels of distribution (conventional large scale distribution vs. organic markets)
  • Shared resources – shared data

From left, Shun Yamaya ’19, Alice Wistar ’20, Pat Rooney ’18, Mayor Liz Lempert, Gina Talt of Sustainability and Jim Nawn, restaurateur.


Liz Lempert Mayor, Princeton.

  • Sustainability competition—the Mayor’s Challenge organized by Bloomberg
    • Voluntary curbside organic waste pickup initiated in 2011 (about 10% participating now = 32 tons/month of ‘saved’ waste going to landfills)
    • Costs $65/year to supplement municipal spending
    • BUT has to be brought 70 miles away to a different state, because there aren’t facilities in New Jersey
    • Community as lab approach

Jim Nawn Owner, Great Road Farm, Agricola, Dinky Restaurant, Cargot and Two Sevens; formerly owner of 37 Panera restaurants.

  • Being able to afford sustainability is a big concern [well it doesn’t have to be, it depends on your approach to sustainability]
  • Great Road Farm supplies about 60% of the restaurants’ vegetables
  • Low margin business as a good incentive to have as little waste as possible (ex. Vegetable shavings etc.)
  • Efficiency on the farm à efficiency in the business
    • A lot of preserves from the production to overcome issues with seasonality
  • Local supply = lower carbon footprint
  • Options are limited by the guests’ wishes
  • Waste from Cargot and Dinky goes to the Princeton bio-digester
  • Limited options on the menu in order to reduce waste from unused ingredients with a very limited shelf life

Shun Yamaya ’19 Greening Dining
Alice Wistar ’20 
Greening Dining
Patrick Rooney 
Freefood listserv

“I’m a modern hunter-gatherer…they didn’t just wait for a deer to jump out…they tracked them…so I’m tracking ‘free’ food”

Gina Talt, Sustainability and Campus as Lab, Princeton University

  • Combining waste from cafes on campus and kiln-dried wood shavings from a local woodshop
  • Using wood shavings to absorb excess moisture and to create space for better oxygenation
  • Triple bottom line sustainability benefits of the project
  • Call for more diverse, local-level composting infrastructure

Madelynn Prendergast ’19 moderator.

From left, Charles Rosen, Newark Cider; Jonathan White, Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse; Jon McConaughy, Brick Farm; Eliza Wright ’19, moderator.


Jon McConaughy Co-owner of Brick Farm Market, Brick Farm Tavern and their farm.

  • Closed loop system
  • Ideas of efficiency are changing in the current system

Jonathan White Co-owner of Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse, where he and his wife, Nina, make and sell award-winning cheeses and breads and have restored habitat for bobolinks.

  • 100 liters of milk ~ 14 kg cheese
  • nothing goes to waste at an integrated farm
  • be skeptical about others’ conclusions

Charles Rosen Founder of Ironbound Cider Farm, Newark, NJ, practicing restoration agriculture in newly planted apple orchards in North Jersey.

  • New Ark farms & ironbound cider
  • Urban renewal
  • Cider industry used to be the first in Newark
  • Mushroom blocks à supplemental livestock feed; mushroom stem products…constant innovation in use of ‘wasted’ produce
  • Wasted human potential initiatives as well (meaningful, well-paying jobs for formally incarcerated, unqualified…)
  • Short term vs log term strategies for the above (transformation takes time…creating living wages, changing lifestyles)
  • Local apples vs. overseas apple juice concentrate as a base for cider

Eliza Wright ’19: moderator.


  • Lessons learned?
    • Wall Street can’t fix the ag systems (farmers know what they are doing)
    • It’s really hard to prove a model, especially in agriculture (ex. Restorative agriculture)
    • You can be commercially viable, treat people well and do organic business
    • The Recipe: brilliant thinking and technology tied to traditional, agricultural practices
    • Subsidies are a disaster
      • We should transition money flows from corporate farms to social programs
    • Need to shift what people value in food
    • People are eating too much of bad stuff instead of smaller amounts of good stuff [issue of produced food, especially artificial flavoring triggering our brain to think it’s eating something else]

From left, Jose Chapa, Rural Migrant Ministry; Daniel Shepard ’19; Tessa Desmond, PU-American Studies; Marty Johnson, PU-Keller Center; Serena Stein, PU-Anthropology.


Tessa Desmond Research Scholar in American Studies, specialist in ethnicity, migration and rights

  • Immigrant labor issues
  • Seasonal migratory laborers without cultural mixing (desired model interrupted by the borders becoming less porous)

Marty Johnson ’81 Founder and CEO of Isles, Inc., an urban sustainable development organization that fosters self-reliance and healthy neighborhoods.

  • Depopulation of Trenton into the suburbs, but leveling out (though mostly because of international immigration)
  • Trenton is a food swamp with 47% child obesity
  • Need for more vegetation (heat maps)
  • Schools & bodegas correlation à perpetuation of junk
  • 20% vacancy = potential for more growth
  • Trenton district is like United Nations

José Chapa Justice for Farmworkers Campaign, Rural-Migrant Ministry

Serena Stein is a doctoral candidate in anthropology; she examines emerging practices in international aid, along with land conflict, food commodity histories, food security, and ethical sourcing.

Daniel Shepard ’19: moderator

Reception at the e-Hub
Hosted by the Keller Center and by Career Services

Artisan cheeses and breads from Jonathan and Nina White of Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse, Milford.

From left, Gordon Douglas, Princeton Studies Food co-founder; Dan Rubenstein, Princeton Studies Food Council; Kristen Rainey ’97, Google Food; and Tim Searchinger, Princeton Studies Food co-founder.

From left, Eva Kubu of Career Services; Rozalie Czesana ’18; and Sara Diressova ’18.


Madison Ebke, along with Stephanie Landers and Beth Jarvie of the Keller Center – and Satomi Chudasama of Career Services, arranged everything for our reception. Thank you!