That’s Elizabeth Yorke for you and our climate champion for this episode. A chef turned food researcher, writer, and advocate for sustainable food systems. Her unique enterprise, Saving Grains, is driven by the vision of creating a scalable circular model in the food economy that is accountable, transparent, collaborative, and puts people at the heart of the project.
So what does her organization do? It is building a community-centered approach to upcycling spent grain, a by-product of the brewing industry in Bangalore, India, the pub-city of India, swarming with around 70-80 microbreweries and generating around 14000 kg of spent grain every day, most of which goes to the landfill. So the chef in Elizabeth, who has interned with bread historian William Rubel in the Bay Area and was part of a cohort of 15 researchers from around the world at the Future Food Institute in Italy, gauged an opportunity to innovate. To upcycle the spent grain, which is delicious and high in fiber and protein, for bakery products like grain flour, daily bread, brownies, etc.
They currently work with Geist Brewing Co., a sustainability-focused zero liquid discharge brewery in Bangalore which works with spent grain flour and has it on their menu. They also work with a community center called Kutumba, focused on women’s empowerment and community development, where spent grain flour is used to make chapati, the daily bread. And they work with home bakers and professional bakers to develop recipes using spent grain and also use it to make non-edible materials. The pandemic was a thought-provoking period for them to realize the intensive dependencies on rural-agricultural systems. At the same time, a delicious, nutritious product like spent grain was being discarded in urban cities.
While the usual terminology is “spent” grain, the grain is considered a rich source of fiber, protein, and phenolic compounds. Research studies and investigations into products that are being made from this grain across the world show that although the grain has “spent” a lot of its starch and sugars, it still has good protein and fiber content and is potentially an excellent food for humans and pets, and has great value as a material that can stay in use!
The spent grain Saving Grains sourced and tested in Bangalore has about 23% protein and 46% dietary fiber. It also has less than 0.1% gluten, making it favorable for senior citizens, diabetic patients, and those with digestive issues. Elizabeth’s sweet spot around spent grain is its malty and earthy flavor thanks to the malted barley-based and the mashing process.
But Elizabeth emphasizes that SAVING GRAINS is not just about upcycling and creating a product alone. It’s about people and the community. Relationships between brewers and bakers and their communities have been around since the beginning. These relationships help strengthen the community, not just by looking into the spent grain as an affordable and nutritious food source, but by engaging people every step of the way and creating spaces and opportunities to increase their incomes, build community, improve their livelihoods, and create an atmosphere for responsible food citizenship.
To learn about them, you can visit their website https://www.savinggrains.in/about.