FERN’s Friday Feed: Digital dumpster-diving

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

The latest in fight against food waste: Dumpster-diving apps


“Preventing excess food from heading to the dump was once the domain of counterculture movements like the ‘freegans’—a loose group of vegans who made exceptions for animal products that they scavenged from dumpsters. New apps and business models are now taking these approaches and scaling them up, aiming to keep from landfills and maybe turn a profit while they’re at it,” writes Kate Yoder. “It’s essentially dumpster diving by smartphone, except that you pay for the goods instead of digging through a dumpster with a flashlight.”

How to make Hawaii less dependent on imported food

Honolulu Civil Beat

“Hawaii imports, by various estimates, upwards of 85% of its food, but that number is deceptively complex,” writes Jessica Terrell. “More than half the fish we eat in Hawaii is caught locally. Hawaii farmers grow a majority of the cabbage and tomatoes consumed here. Most of the cucumbers. We grow so much papaya that it’s one of our top agricultural exports. Hawaii’s real problem emerges with staple foods: things like wheat and rice — carbohydrates that make up the bulk of people’s diets in the islands. The kinds of foods that have historically been so important that they were worshipped in many developing societies.”

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Agriculture is sinking this California town

The New York Times

Over the past 14 years, [Corcoran, California] has sunk as much as 11.5 feet in some places — enough to swallow the entire first floor of a two-story house and to at times make [it] one of the fastest-sinking areas in the country, according to experts with the United States Geological Survey,” writes Lois Henry. “In Corcoran and other parts of the San Joaquin Valley, the land has gradually but steadily dropped primarily because agricultural companies have for decades pumped underground water to irrigate their crops.”

Farmland has entered the ‘asset class’

Mother Jones

Bill and Melinda Gates “are the United States’ ‘largest private farmland owners,’ the trade journal Land Report recently revealed. They preside over 242,000 acres nationwide, an empire of dirt worth a cool $5 billion,” writes Tom Philpott. “The Gateses aren’t the only one-percenters with dirt in their portfolios. Over the last decade, farmland has taken off as an ‘asset class,’ finance speak for a type of investment that Wall Street salespeople urge wealthy people to include in their well-balanced portfolios.”

Shaker cuisine? Apparently, it’s about to become a thing.

The Guardian

When sous chef Poppy O’Toole lost her job early in the pandemic, she began uploading her own recipes to TikTok. A year later, she “has 1.5 million followers … and a book deal,” writes Sirin Kale. She “is one of the ascendant stars of food TikTok along with American vegan chef Tabitha Brown, 17-year-old Starbucks barista Maya Smith, whose video for Skittles Frappuccinos has nearly 6m likes (diabetics, watch at your peril), and angry New Jersey muscle-head Gianluca Conte … whose catchphrase is ‘pasta, ya asshole!’”