Food Systems Intern
Dan Swenson-Klatt opened Butter Bakery in 2006 with the idea of community in mind. In a culture full of restaurants disconnected from their customers, their ingredients, and their workers, it’s more important than ever to ask what it means to encourage and support one another, what it means to be a good neighbor, and what it means to serve good food. Inspired by the connection between food and community, Butter Bakery is a family-run business striving to exemplify exactly how a restaurant can lead the way to a new local food economy.
Butter Bakery has been working toward sustainability in their practices for more than 15 years, long before major sustainability guides or infrastructure existed. Concerned with plastic waste coming from their inventory, Butter Bakery worked directly with suppliers and farmers to reduce plastic waste in product packaging. Now that there’s been a wider-scale push against single-use plastics, Butter Bakery has had the opportunity to partner with Forever Ware, utilizing their reusable carry-out containers to reduce the single-use waste produced by takeout containers.
Butter Bakery also takes creative routes to reduce their food waste. Beyond being concise and mindful when ordering their ingredients to limit the amount of food being wasted, the bakery also is very intentional about using food “scraps.” Dan cites baking quiches and making stock as his favorite methods to make use of leftover ingredients that otherwise would not be used. The restaurant also donates leftover food to neighbors in the apartments above them who are often low-income and food insecure. Butter Bakery has also partnered with Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative to offer supportive work experiences to young adults facing houselessness and poverty.
On Nourish, MN350’s food-centered podcast, Dan addressed his reasoning for ensuring Butter Bakery supports its community:
“I found early on that my efforts were useful, but just as a small business, [didn’t have] a particularly big impact. And so my efforts early on became working with my neighborhood organization to help them see how they could do the same kind of reduction and move to environmentally friendly products and do composting.”
He continues to discuss the ripple effect of his small actions, including how encouraging a few people in his community to organize for sustainability has led to larger-scale calls-to-action, such as working directly with the city of Minneapolis. Butter Bakery’s continued commitment to building community and reducing and diverting food waste makes them stand out as guiding members of the Clean Plate Club. Their creative practices demonstrate the impact individuals and businesses can have both with and without existing infrastructure and guidance. Their work also highlights the intersection of community and sustainability, a core tenet of MN350. In an industry that often prioritizes individualism and profit-over-people structures, a restaurant with a mission like Butter Bakery’s is more important than ever. As a member of the Clean Plate Club, Butter Bakery now has the opportunity to work with and guide other restaurants on the path to climate justice.
If you’d like to learn more about Butter Bakery, check out their episode of MN350’s Nourish podcast, The Ripple Effect. You can also get further involved by joining our Food Waste team to encourage your neighborhood restaurants to adopt more sustainable actions or by organizing within your own community. As Dan said, even small actions can have a ripple effect.
Kate Coleman is a proud Minnesotan currently completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota Duluth. She is interested in sustainable urbanism and food systems and has been an intern for MN350’s Food Systems Team for 5 months.