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Fort Macleod Justice Film Festival provides food for thought

Vegetable soup was on the menu at the Welcome Mat.

Vegetable soup was on the menu at the Welcome Mat.

Melody Bannerman, Val Kostelansky and Stasha Donahue prepare to serve lunch as part of the Justice Film Festival.

Melody Bannerman, Val Kostelansky and Stasha Donahue prepare to serve lunch as part of the Justice Film Festival.

Among the topics explored at the third annual Justice Film Festival was one that fed the mind, as well as the body.
About 40 people turned out Saturday morning at the Empress Theatre to watch a film about food waste and take part in a discussion led by a guest speaker.
They were then invited to the Welcome Mat for a meal prepared by the Fort Macleod Food Matters group of food that was nutritious and safe but which would not be found on store shelves.
The 2014 film Just Eat It explores food waste in North America from the agriculture industry to retail to the refrigerator.
Each year millions of tonnes of food that is safe to eat — nearly 50 per cent of the total produce — winds up wasted.
Just Eat It director Grant Baldwin and his wife Jen decided to quit grocery shopping and exist only on food that would otherwise be thrown away.
The film explores food waste and some of the projects undertaken to change things, such as a farm where pigs are fed food destined for the landfill and a collective in which food that is safe but retail outlets won’t sell is rescued and sold cheaply to people with limited income.
“There was a lot of food for thought in that film,” moderator Linda Ripley said, somewhat tongue in cheek.
Ripley introduced guest speaker Stefan Michalski from the Lethbridge Biogas Facility, where waste is turned into energy.
Michalski holds a Master of Science and Engineering degree in industrial engineering from the Technology University of Berlin and has written about bio-gas technology.
“We all got a lot of chuckles out of the movie, but at the end of the day we all agree we were watching a pretty sad story,” Michalski said.
Michalski, who has more than 20 years of experience in bio-energy development, came to Fort Macleod 11 years ago to work on the biogas facility.
“I was brought here by very forward-thinking people who thought this was an issue that has to be addressed,” Michalski said.
The Lethbridge Biogas Facility is one of the most modern facilities in the country.
The facility processes food waste as a small part of its input.
Michalski explained the facility receives about 100,000 pounds of food waste each month from two Lethbridge grocery stores.
“For technical reasons we only accept clean, unpackaged food waste,” Michalski said. “We are only seeing part of the picture.”
The Lethbridge facility receives clean produce, bread, meat and cheese in its three weekly deliveries.
“If you would be there on Monday morning you would not believe what you would see in terms of the quality of product that actually shows up at the door,” Michalski said. “You start thinking, what’s wrong with this?”
Michalski said what he found interesting in Just Eat It was the discussion of the legal aspect of best before dates that lead to quality food being discarded.
“The not wasting part is not addressed by what we are doing with it, but we are at least trying to make something out of it so it’s not ending up in the landfill,” Michalski said.
The Lethbridge facility captures the methane, runs it through reciprocating engines and produces power.
“Food waste, in comparison to other biodegradable products, is a high energy feedstock for our purposes,” Michalski said. “It produces a lot of energy.”
Michalski said Europe is a leader in waste to energy production, but Canada and North America are slowly grasping the idea.
Michalski said it will require changes to government policy and incentives to spur growth.
The Lethbridge facility can generate 2.8 megawatts of power, or enough to supply Fort Macleod.
Following the discussion the audience was invited to the Welcome Mat for a meal of vegetable soup and bread pudding prepared and served by volunteers from Fort Macleod Food Matters.
“Lunch is constructed of things that might end up wasted if they stay in your fridge too long,” Ripley said.
Other movies shown at the Justice Film Festival covered topics such as the declining honey bee population, the importance of unstructured play for children, small farmers being pushed off the land by corporations, chemical use, and sustainable fashion.

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