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Artist Exhibits Discarded Food for Emergency Preparedness Show

By Nicholas Rizzi | October 8, 2013 8:52am
 "New Earth MRE" will be on display in Staten Island throughout October and November, and highlight emergency preparedness with a display of dehydrated meals.
New Earth MRE
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TOMPKINSVILLE — Waste food has been dehydrated by a Staten Island artist eager to make the case for emergency planning.

Tattfoo Tan's latest piece "New Earth MRE" — Meals, Ready to Eat — is on display at his Tompkinsville studio at 67 Monroe Ave.

Tan tried to highlight the need for emergency preparedness and self reliance with the piece, preparing dozens of dehydrated meals from reclaimed vegetables and setting them up in military style crates.

"I'm trying to highlight the need to prepare for disaster, whether it's food or clothing," he said. "If you have your own supply then you won't be panicking, You can survive a longer time without external help."

Tan started the project over a year ago — before Hurricane Sandy helped prove his point by ravaging his borough.

He made the meals, which range from mashed potatoes and apple sauce to miso vegetable soup, with food waste discarded by grocery stores.

Many times, stores and restaurants will throw away vegetables that are still safe to eat because they either are irregular looking or require more work to prepare, Tan said.

"If you go to a lower income neighborhood, they would be on the shelf," he said. "But just because sometimes those things are not considered good looking, higher end grocers would throw them out."

Tan's meals can be reconstituted easily by boiling water — some only taking 15 minutes — and can last up to a year, he said.

The ease of preparing dehydrated meals and their long shelf life makes them ideal for emergencies, he added.

Plus, the meals are healthier than ones that can be bought in stores because Tan doesn't use preservatives.

The two month long exhibition is part of the Marfa Dialogues / NY series of art projects throughout the five boroughs on climate change topics.

The project won a Core77 2013 Design award, and Tan said it's part of a larger series of works, "New Earth," on environmental sustainability and consciousness.

On Tuesday night, Tan will give demonstrations on how to make kale chips in the studio, and is working on teaming up with local schools to give talks and presentations on the skills.

Aside from highlighting emergency preparedness, Tan also hopes to show people how to become more self reliant.

"All of these skills are traditional skills that we all forgot," he said. "These skills should be relearned and reactivated and re-taught.

"If not, we always have to outsource our needs. We never cook at home, we never know how to save food, we are just useless."

New Earth MRE will be on display at 67 Monroe Ave. every Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 6 p.m. until Nov. 31.