In the video, piles of pears and leafy greens are stacked on white-clothed tables. People wander into a Mount Pleasant home, smiling as they carry beets in their canvas bags, and waving as they eat salad on the porch. The clips feature, in black on white font, a dramatic description of the scene: “How I spend $0 on groceries living in Washington, D.C.” Anyone who lives within a hundred-mile radius of the area will be amazed by this. Prepare; Not having to pay for groceries feels like winning Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.
This DC group has found a way to lower their food bills, and feed others
The narrating voice in this TikTok video, Which caught on almost immediately, promising homemade sauces, foraged mushrooms and a friendly community. All you have to do is click on the link in the poster’s bio to be redirected to the source of this bonus: A community group called ReDelicious.
The voice belongs to Onose Ijewere, a relatively new member of ReDelicious and One of the organization’s social media creators. On the group’s website, you’ll learn that ReDelicious is part co-op, part food lab — created to reduce food waste and provide free groceries to people in need.
ReDelicious members collect leftover produce, baked goods and other food items that would otherwise be thrown away from two local farmers markets. As six of the members confirmed, both on TikTok and on a Zoom call with me, they take their leftovers — a process called “pickup” — only after a group of local nonprofits and food banks get first approval for the goods.
The team admits that the claim in the viral video is a bit exaggerated. All members still spend some money on food, as what they pick up does not provide them with dairy, meat or other easily perishable goods. But they spend less and waste less.
The group meets on Sunday to distribute food and cook with the ingredients they have collected. They never know exactly what they’re going to get, but their signature dish is a pesto sauce made from carrot tops and other root vegetables — bits of the plant that most would throw away. Once, they made klodnik, a Polish stew, using a large amount of leftover beets, and they weren’t quite sure what to do with them. As Ijewere reported on TikTok, ReDelicious members are also experimenting with mycology and foraging for fresh mushrooms — an endeavor that requires a degree of caution and experience — Beside Fermentation and pickling. Each week, members allocate a portion of these captured produce to people experiencing food insecurity.
The founding members of ReDelicious, who were initially united by their interest in sustainable eating, activism, and mycology, considered purchasing an old pickle and using it to pickle their vegetables in 2022. But after about two months, the members decided to move away from the pickling project.
“We said, ‘Well, what if we just do the fun, experimental side of things and figure it out from there?’” says Sam Bonar, a founding member of Delicious Democracy, ReDelicious’ parent organization. “We started by going to some markets. We found that there were places that weren’t picking up but still had extras, or had seconds that pickers didn’t want to pick up because they were too squishy or ugly or whatever. We started experimenting. … “Well, maybe we could scoop up the carrot tops and turn them into pesto and spread the pesto over them.” “And we’re just starting to focus on that.”
The team has built a social media presence and website (enter Ijewere, about a month ago), but until recently, its primary drive in membership came from word of mouth. Members come from all over the D.C. region and work in fields ranging from artificial intelligence to communications to cooking.
When I met the six members via Zoom, they had gathered to discuss the future of the organization — a future that needed to be reassessed because of the jump in interest resulting from this virus. TikTok, which has been viewed more than 291,000 times.
“We started with 10 people attending on Sundays,” says member Lior Wolf. “And last week we had more than a hundred.”
They want to stay committed to the community ownership model and think about how they can increase their membership. The group’s guiding principle is prominently displayed on ReDelicious’ website: “Scarcity is a myth.”
“Because there’s food, there’s resources,” says Tiffany Boles, a new member who joined at the end of our call. “It’s really about putting in the work to redistribute what’s available and building a community around that.”
Everyone agrees they want a dedicated space so they no longer have to work out of the Mount Pleasant home, which now exceeds its capacity on busy Sundays.
“It feels like we’re doing something people can relate to,” Brianna Gomez McGowan says. “What I want people to take away is that there are ways to get creative with the community. We’re a group of people with similar interests and (we want) to be able to turn what would otherwise be waste into something delicious, meaningful and nutritious.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that one of the defunct Pickles donated equipment to the group. The article has been corrected.