Brian Lam at Sticky Fingers Bakery on Park Road in Columbia Heights says the store is very careful not to waste leftovers: “Basically we try and conserve so that we don’t have too much leftover at the end of the day.” Owner Doron Petersan adds that there are plenty of ways for the vegan bakery to keep its scraps from ending up in a dumpster out back. For one thing, Petersan “usually lets our staff eat what there is [left over].” When all hands on deck isn’t enough, Sticky Fingers donates to food banks.
“When we do have overflow,” Petersan said, “we give it to food kitchens, mainly the one on 14th and Florida [Martha’s Table], and we’ve donated to the Washington Food Bank when there are large amounts.”
The shop’s most common leftovers are “cupcakes and sandwiches,” but the team has improved at “scheduling things so there’s very little waste.” In fact, adds Petersan, “our staff is great about that.”
Across the street from Sticky Fingers is the Giant, which also does a brisk business with Martha’s Table. It’s also home to baker Lindsey Kirtz, who claims to have “worked in a million bakeries,” none of which, in Kirtz’s opinion, can match Giant’s dedication to making sure still-good food makes its way to people who can’t buy their own.
In almost 20 years of baking, Kirtz has worked all over the District and its outlying areas, but he saves special contempt for Federal Bakers, a large industrial operation based in Arlington. Kirtz alleges that Federal Bakers wanted to avoid being seen as favoring one food bank over the others, so it gave its scraps to a farmer in West Virginia who fed the scraps to his pigs and cattle.
But at Giant, says Kirtz, once a bakery item is two days old—regardless of what it is—it goes in the mark-down rack in the northeast corner of the store. Whatever doesn’t get sold the next day makes its way to Martha’s Table courtesy of a man named Fred.
Kirtz’s motto when deciding what goes to Martha’s is this: “If I don’t want to eat it, I don’t send it out to Martha’s table.”
Reporting by Ted Scheinman.