Even if mother nagged you to clean your plate because of starving children, don’t stay away from “Just Eat It,” a film about food waste.  The new documentary by Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer was not shot to make you feel guilty.  It was shot to provide a radical perspective on a vitally-important problem.

By committing to live off of foraged food waste food for six months, Baldwin and Rustemeyer personalize a global problem. Baldwin points out that 40 percent of food America produces is wasted and asks, “How much of that can I eat?”

Turns out – quite a bit.

In this next offering of the Salem Progressive Film Series, Baldwin and Restemeyer’s dumpster diving and foraging culls for them more food than they can eat. Baldwin gains 10 pounds; they give away luxury chocolate bars on Halloween and at the end of their project put on a huge feast for their friends. A montage of some of the meals they prepare with foraged food is mouth-watering.

The award-winning documentary {Best Canadian Documentary at the Edmonton Film Festival, People’s Choice Award at the Calgary International Film Festival, and more,) shows that much of food wasted in this country is rejected on mere aesthetics. Food producers who are interviewed point out that they can’t even sell much of their product simply because it fails to meet highly specific market standards based on size, shape and appearance—the food itself is perfectly edible and nutritious. One producer tells us that as much as 70 percent of harvested food is tossed, and Baldwin and Restemeyer capture with beautiful cinematography heartbreaking images of truckloads of waste.

Though that symbol of wasteful indulgence, Las Vegas, is featured, the film points out that most food waste comes from ordinary households. The filmmakers include a sad montage of thousands of peppers undergoing elaborate high-energy food processing from stalk to market, only for one beautiful orange pepper to sit on a refrigerator shelf to slowly wrinkle and mold in time-lapse photography.

Once American culture expressed an aversion to food wastefulness, but Baldwin and Rustemeyer point out that excess food is now the norm. It’s an issue that matters because even though Western countries are producing 150-200 percent of the food we need, we are wasting large portions of land, energy and water to do so—and mass quantities of that food ends up in waste fills, producing the methane that is contributing to global warming.

Part of the film’s message is that much of this excess food could be donated to those who are food insecure through the ancient practice of gleaning. The filmmakers advocate for rescuing perfectly nutritious food that is going to be dumped, and donating it to the poor.

Though the filmmakers go to a humorous extreme, their take-home message is simple and sounds like the advice mother would give–Plan your meals, use a shopping list, freeze leftovers, and eat what’s in the fridge. Simple, but with a significant impact on global resource consumption. And if you want to go as far as Baldwin and Rustemeyer go and practice urban foraging, you could save some big bucks. They rescued some $20,000 worth of high-quality food during their project.

After the screening, Rustemeyer herself will speak to attendees about the film’s issues via Skype, and joining her will be Alan Pennington from Marion County’s Environmental Services Department, and Michelle Suess, Sustainability Director of LifeSource Natural Foods.

The evening will provide vivid “food for thought” for Salem people who care about climate change, American hunger and the environment.

Just Eat It

Salem Progressive Film Series

Guest speakers & audience discussion follow, 

Thursday, December 11, 7 p.m.

The Grand Theater

191 High St. NE, Salem

(503) 881-5305