Upcycling produce earmarked for the trash is the goal of this local company – Hawaiipublicradio

Published February 12, 2024 at 4:59 PM HST

When it comes to food security, some are advocating for a waste not, want not approach.

Poni Askew, the co-founder of the Hawaiian Vinegar & Spice Company, said farmers can potentially throw away 20% to 40% of the food they grow. She wants to see food destined for the trash upcycled into new value-added products.

Her company does just that by turning “off-grade and seasonally fresh” produce into different flavors of vinegar and related products.

“Hopefully, eventually our farmers will be inspired to be upcyclers of their own products that they have and they grow, and what normally goes to the pigs,” Askew said.

“I know it’s challenging for them to create ultimately a second business model, but that literally was why the federal government called it ‘value-added products.’ And it was because the intention originally was meant to inspire farmers to add value to the produce that they are putting into the waste stream,” she added.

Askew said revenue from value-added products can be reinvested into the food system by helping farmers expand their operations.

She will be moderating a Hawaiʻi Agricultural Foundation series event, EAT THINK DRINK, on Feb. 20.

This story aired on The Conversation on Feb. 12, 2024. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.