Sep 9, 2022 - News

360 Eats: One man's garbage is another's gourmet

Cameron and Ellen Macleish holding a 360 Eats sign
Cameron and Ellen Macleish. Photo: Courtesy of 360 Eats

The first time Cameron Macleish went grocery shopping in a dumpster, it felt like opening a treasure chest.

  • "I was like, 'Wow, I get to eat like a king for free,'" Macleish told Axios. "But then it was also shocking. It was perfectly good food that was thrown out on its expiration date or close to it."

Flashback: Macleish learned the wonders of dumpster diving while traveling through Australia and brought his newfound love for rescuing food back home to Oldsmar.

  • His mother, Ellen, a professional chef working at Fenway in Dunedin at the time, was already disenchanted with how much waste she saw in the food industry.
  • So in 2020, they combined their skills to find a solution: 360 Eats.

How it works: Macleish and his volunteers gather donations from grocery stores and food suppliers like Earth Fare in Oldsmar and US Foods in Tampa. Restaurants and individuals can also donate.

  • At a local commissary kitchen, Ellen turns the goods into gourmet meals, then donates them to outreach organizations like Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center and Pinellas HOPE.

Why it matters: In Tampa Bay, one million people struggle to gain access to affordable, nutritious food, according to Feeding Tampa Bay.

  • 360 Eats saves between 800-1,000 pounds of food each week, Macleish says, bridging the gap between food waste and accessibility.

Between the lines: Through the Good Samaritan Act, 360 Eats and other nonprofits that donate food are protected with limited liability that grocery stores don't have for food items past the expiration date.

  • 360 Eats either composts food that can't be eaten or gives it away to local farms. About 1%, mostly soured dairy, does actually have to be tossed.

Point of intrigue: Ellen's creations include turning tossed-out veggies and canned goods into dishes like the roasted gazpacho with refrijole crostini and tropical salsa, as pictured below.

  • "I want it to be as complex and rich as if I was making it at a restaurant and charging you $25 a dish," she told Axios. "I'm not going to not have a garnish of pickled red onions just because someone is food-insecure."

What's ahead: Next month the duo is launching a food truck, Sustain-a-Bowl, with hopes of bringing a more fun, customizable experience to neighborhoods that need it.

roasted gazpacho with refrijole crostini and tropical salsa
Roasted gazpacho with refrijole crostini and tropical salsa. Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Macleish
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