First Awesome Food Grant! Compost Mobile of Miami—Collecting Food Scraps from Home Kitchens

Awesome Food is superexcited to announce that its inaugural micro-grant of $1,000 has been awarded to CompostMobile, a residential compost service based in Miami, Florida that provides a home pick-up service for food scraps that are then delivered to urban farms and community gardens. Compost Mobile, which is a project of the non-profit UP-Lab, was chosen out almost 600 applications submitted to the first round of Awesome Food call for proposals.

“We think CompostMobile is awesome because it’s making a difference at the ground level,” said Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks who is one of the Awesome Food trustees. “They’re figuring out how to take food scraps from the home and use them to help low-income communities start gardens and urban farms. It’s an awesome idea because it takes a bunch of problems—waste, food illiteracy, lack of nutritious food—and cancels them out by combining them in an awesome way!”

Jennifer Siqueira, coordinator of CompostMobile and co-founder of UP-Lab with Hector F. Burga, had been working in community gardens locally, when she learned of  a similar scraps to-compost effort in Washington DC. (There are similar efforts throughout the country).

Jennifer explained, “I had friends who came to me with their scraps of food, asking me to take it to my other friends in various community gardens throughout Miami. I started wondering if I could start a program where hundreds of individuals could start disposing of their food scraps in the same manner and in doing so provide a wider community benefit. Since the number one commodity of a great farm or garden is good soil, I started questioning why we should continue dumping perfectly good compostables in landfills, when we can re-use them to create a network of collaboration and alternative sustainability practices in Miami.”

“With this funding opportunity from Awesome Food, we can get more people participating in the program and coordinate with other UP-Lab efforts of similar scope,” she said.

The first compost pickup, which took place in July 2011, was a 10 pounds of compost delivered to the compost pile at Earth & Us Farm in Miami.  Compost Mobile started with only two households in July, but grew to four households in August and eight households in September. Now the service collects about 30 pounds of scraps per week from between 15 and 20 residences and small businesses.

In order to start collecting scraps in any neighborhood, they need 10 homes to compost in each area. Currently, they are hoping to start four groups in Miami Beach, Brickell, Upper East Side and El Portal.

CompostMobile’s motto is “We want your scraps. Stale Food. Inedible. Leftovers.” Residential customers are given a plastic bucket to collect their food scraps.  The process is very simple, explained Vanessa Stelmach, one of Compost Mobile’s clients.  ”All I do is collect my food scraps in a plastic bin and once a week Jennifer comes to my place to pick it up, usually on Saturdays. If I’m not going to be home, I leave my bucket at the front door steps and a few hours later, I pick up the empty bin and start collecting my scraps again, or sometimes I drop the scraps off at the farm where she lives.” Ms. Stemach added, “Jennifer pretty much is my organic garbage lady ;)”


CompostMobile customers are charged a disposal and pick-up fee, but compost recipients receive the scraps at no charge.  “The idea of collecting food scraps isn’t something that most people understand, so getting them to invest in a compost bin was too much,” said Jennifer. “With the funding, we can get more people participating in the program. The more that people see it, the more they can understand the benefits on the environment. Someone who lives in a high-rise, just by giving their food scraps, becomes connected to the community farm they walk by, and that helps people become connected and learn more about their food.”

CompostMobile will use the grant towards purchasing more composting buckets, which cost around $18 a piece, for clients’ homes.

For more information about CompostMobile, contact  at Jennifer[at]up-lab[dot]org! You can also follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.

Below is a picture of CompostMobile’s first batch of food scraps which was delivered to the compost pile at Earth & Us Farm in July 2011.


(CompostMobile gives permission for all pictures here to be grabbed and used for other posts)


Awesome Food Grant Awarded to Youth-Run Pop-Up BBQ Cafe

Awesome Food is excited to announce that its tenth micro-grant of $1,000 has been awarded to Mike Bancroft of Co-op Image, a youth arts education and entrepreneurship organization based in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois.  Awesome Food is a chapter of the Awesome Foundation, a global network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe.

In operation since 2003, Co-op Image runs a variety of youth-led programs in the fields of fine art and sustainable food making. One of these programs, called Chi-Town Chefs,  connects urban agriculture, the politics of healthy eating, and culinary-arts training through a weekly cooking show. Youth apprentices ages 14-15 cultivate herbs and vegetables in Co-op Image’s community gardens then use them in the production of their cooking show set for broadcast on public access television. The cooking show teaches industry-standard video production techniques to youth and serves the community with culturally relevant information about food preparation, nutrition, and sustainable urban agriculture. You can watch the pilot episode of Chi-Town Chefs here.

The newly acquired Co-op Image storefront where the pop-up BBQ cafe will take place

Rolando Robledo, an Awesome Food trustee and head chef at Clover Food Lab based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was particularly excited about this month’s grant to Co-op Image.  He praised their special programs where student participants can “gain insights into leadership and how to run a business, from a place where they feel they can contribute their ideas and be considered.”  He added, “the cool part is that we’ve got inner-city kids, learning valuable skills, planning, organizing. All of this, while having fun.”

Co-op Image also produces Co-op Sauce, a highly successful hot sauce company, which has been featured in Tasting Table, Time Out Chicago, and The Huffington Post.  Co-op Sauce is sold at various retailers throughout the Chicago area, as well as online.  Half of the proceeds from the sales of Co-op Sauce go directly towards supporting programs at Co-op Image.

Student-built BBQ trailer

In the summer of 2011, students at Co-op Image built a BBQ trailer (welding and all!) and hosted a pop-up dinner event in the Co-op Image community garden.  With help from the Awesome Food grant, they are trying their hand at a BBQ pop-up cafe which will be run out of the Co-op Sauce production facility. “This project will be a great experiment in social entrepreneurship and has the capacity to keep on going with minimal investment,” Bancroft shared.  He added, “our youth need these real incubator opportunities, and the experience would be an amazing life lesson around the business of food.” Bancroft is also exploring the possibility of establishing a more permanent cafe that would create much needed jobs for at-risk teens.  The Awesome Food grant will go towards displays and youth stipends for the BBQ pop-up cafe.

For more information onCo-op Image, check our their website or email [email protected]

Photos courtesy of Mike Bancroft.