Upcycle fruit into hard cider? At the Green Urban Lunch Box, apple-solutely

18 Feb 2021, by Admin in Harvest Blog, Green Urban Lunch Box

Hannah Goggin is the HAH VISTA serving at The Green Urban Lunch Box (GULB) in Salt Lake City, Utah. GULB is a food justice nonprofit organization that seeks to empower people to connect to their food and community by revitalizing urban spaces and building a resilient food culture.

Even during the off-season, GULB staff and volunteers remain engaged in the subject of local food justice through monthly community discussions hosted virtually by the Green Urban Lunch Box. VISTA Hannah hosted January’s community discussion on upcycling, which highlights a partnership GULB has created with a local cidery.

Upcycling is an interesting topic for a food justice organization: when people think of upcycling or creative reuse they think of turning an old ladder into a bookshelf, or turning used plastic bottles into seed starters. They don’t think about food or food waste.

America wastes roughly 40 percent of its food. Of the estimated 125 to 160 billion pounds of food that goes to waste every year, much of it is perfectly edible and nutritious. Food is lost or wasted for a variety of reasons; bad weather, processing problems, overproduction and unstable markets cause food loss long before it arrives in a grocery store, while overbuying, poor planning and confusion over labels and safety contribute to food waste at stores and in homes. Food waste also has a staggering price tag, costing this country approximately $218 billion per year. Uneaten food also puts unneeded strain on the environment by wasting valuable resources like water and farmland.

The Upcycled Food Association announced that they define upcycled foods as ones that use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. Food upcycling is a unique solution to the food waste problem, and where the collaboration between The Green Urban Lunch Box and Mountain West Hard Cider really shines.

Every year GULB and Mountain West work together to create the delicious and hyper local Green Urban Lunch Box Hard Cider using B-grade apples that have been harvested through GULB’s FruitShare program. The FruitShare program partners with fruit tree homeowners and community volunteers to harvest fruit that would otherwise go to waste. The fruit that is harvested at each harvest event is sorted into categories, A and B (sometimes C, which is destined for the compost). A-grade is fruit that looks perfect, with no bruises, blemishes or funny shapes, and is easily distributed between the Food Bank, other hunger relief programs and GULB’s various CSA options. B-grade is fruit that is still perfectly edible, but may be misshapen or have a few blemishes that make it harder to distribute.

A-grade fruit is very easy to distribute between the Food Bank, other hunger relief programs and GULB’s various CSA options, but this leaves us with large quantities of B-grade fruit that we can’t donate. To put that into perspective, GULB harvested over 24,000 lbs of apples, half of those being B-grade. This year the FruitShare staff and volunteers hauled over 5,000 lbs of apples to Mountain West Hard Cider. Volunteers and staff sorted, washed, grinded and pressed the apples to create 300 gallons of apple cider for Mountain West to bottle, ferment and sell.

For each bottle that is sold, 5 dollars goes back to GULB’s FruitShare program to purchase new harvesting and safety gear, as well as fuel for the harvest vans. This system enables GULB to coordinate even more projects and partnerships, just like the one with Mountain West Hard Cider.