My wonderful mother taught me many things during my formative years, with one being: Always finish all of the food on your plate. While it’s possible I may have taken that lesson to heart a little too seriously over the years -- just ask my ever-expanding waistline (yes, Mom, I’m working out) -- it’s also a simple idea that resonates on a much larger scale.
Here’s a statistic you may not be aware of: More than $150 billion in food is wasted every year. And with 49 million Americans being "food insecure" -- or being unable to afford regular access to healthy, nutrient-dense foods -- the need for us, as a society, to battle those two issues has never been greater.
Enter Project RAW: This charity foundation uses "rescued food" to make green smoothies for food-insecure populations, with more than 22,000 smoothies last year alone.
"Around 30 percent of food that gets donated is perishable," Project RAW co-founder John McGuire said. "Often, donations of perishable food are unpredictable in timing and quantity. So, for instance, some shelters will receive 30 boxes of blueberries on one day, or 50 pounds of apples the next. They can't just say, 'Here, eat three boxes of blueberries today -- they go bad tomorrow.' So, more often than not, the donated fresh fruits and veggies get thrown away, while the processed 'frankenfood' gets served up. We 'rescue' the donated fruits and veggies by cleaning them, prepping them, and either blending them on the spot or freezing them for future use. Green smoothies are amazing!"
One economic and health challenge facing low-income families is the fact that nutritious food costs more: How many fast-food cheeseburgers can you buy for the price of a healthy salad?
"The impact of nutrition on crime and addiction is truly staggering," McGuire said. "In this sense, access to nutritious food becomes a social-justice issue. With the highest incarceration rate in the world, we feel that if we can do something as simple as a nutritional intervention that would decrease crime and drug addiction -- and do this from food that is otherwise going to waste -- that we should stop everything and get on it!"
Music fans will have a prime chance to get involved on Wednesday at the Belly Up
in Solana Beach. Project RAW has partnered with the venue to present an evening of great music, education and fundraising: One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to support the charity’s efforts to rescue produce and serve it to the needy. In 2013, Project RAW saved more than 6.5 tons of food and created a value to the community in excess of $110,000, but organizers are not content to rest on their laurels: Their 2014 goal is to serve more than $1 million worth of green smoothies to people in need.
Project RAW couldn’t have picked a better band to help in their cause. Even though they hail from L.A., Terraplane Sun are familiar enough with San Diego that it’s easy for the group to step onstage and immediately get involved with the community. I actually caught the band for the first time on New Year’s Eve at the Casbah
, where they were headlining, and was simply blown away.
"We get as excited to play San Diego as we do L.A.," lead guitarist Johnny Zambetti said. "We’ve had some of our most memorable shows there. We were lucky enough to open for Alabama Shakes at the Belly Up
right before they took off, which was absolutely crazy. We definitely have a ruckus every time we come down."
It’s refreshing to see a band on the way up taking time out of a hectic touring and recording schedule to champion a cause like Project RAW.
"We’re always on the lookout for this kind of thing," Zambetti said. "It’s an interesting concept -- so much food goes to waste. It’s something you do every day without even realizing it, and with this, you have the opportunity to affect a lot of people."
Even though you could simply applaud Terraplane Sun for lending a helping hand to a fundraiser like this, it doesn’t hurt that they play incredible music on top of it. The dizzying array of genres they tap into is impressive: folk, blues, pop, rock, soul, dance and surf are just some of the styles the quintet masters, often fusing several within one song.
"That’s the thing: Everyone wants to put Baby in the corner," Zambetti said, laughing, referencing a famous line from the film Dirty Dancing. "We list every genre you can possibly list on our Facebook page on purpose, because it’s just music. Of course, it’s based in blues -- like all rock & roll -- but I like that we can get away with weaving in and out of genres. Why put a label on it? That’s the most fun part of what we do."
Terraplane Sun, which released last year’s five-song EP Ya Never Know to unanimous acclaim, promises a great show on Wednesday. You’ll also hear songs from their forthcoming 2014 debut album, due in June.
"[The new album] will show a full evolution of the band. It’ll include the songs off our first EP, along with six new ones, the last track on the album having been written just two months ago," Zambetti said. "So you can see the full progression of the band, from the beginning to where we are now. All of our voices are much more prevalent on each song; we’re more intertwined with each other. I mean, we were always on the same page, but now it’s even more so than before."
Join the Project RAW cause and hear some great live music while you’re at it. We can’t think of a better way to do some good.
Project RAW Fundraiser with Terraplane Sun, Sister Juanita, Feb. 12, the Belly Up
. General admission tickets are $14, or $24 VIP. Buy online
or at the door.
Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Chess Wars, Boy King and Diamond Lakes. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.