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Food Waste, Hunger, and You – By Emily Campbell (’17)

Recently, Campus Kitchen students joined peers from across the country at the 2015 Food Waste & Hunger Summit, where we networked, shared insights, learned new ideas, and were honored with a “Going Beyond The Meal” award.  Check out Emily Campbell’s (’17) reflection and call to action below, and stay tuned for more student reflections!

The United States wastes 40 billion pounds of food each year. 40 billion. That statistic is staggering, but it’s even more unsettling knowing that 1 in 6 Americans do not consistently know from where their next meal is coming. Some throw perfectly edible food in the trash while others go hungry. It’s a paradox: in a decade, our landfills will be so full of food and other organic material that we’ll have to start exporting our trash and yet there are still people who are food insecure. I could go on with statistics about hunger and about wasted food, but I’ll cut to the chase: What can we do about it?

  1. Throw less out. Most wasted food comes at the household level and reducing your own waste matters. So, don’t bite off more than you can chew (literally). When you’re serving yourself a meal, don’t take more than you know you can eat and less will end up in the trash. Put less food on your plate the first time, and by all means, eat seconds. But watch your portions so the second half of your sandwich doesn’t end up a landfill. Learn more about wasted food and how to end it here.
  2. Learn about labels. What does that “use by” stamp on your milk actually mean? In reality, probably nothing. Unless it’s infant formula, food dating isn’t regulated on the federal level. Labels like “use by,” “sell by,” and “best by” all refer to quality, not safety. Your milk doesn’t magically expire when the clock turns to midnight on the day of that arbitrary date stamp. Smell it. Taste it. More than likely, it’s still perfectly safe to drink. The same is true of most types of labels. If you eat past the stamp date, you’ll waste less food and save money. Learn more by reading “The Dating Game,” a report on the realities of labeling published by the NRDC.
  3. Buy ugly. It sounds odd, but food is the victim of beauty standards. The best looking apple appears the freshest and is the most likely to be bought while it’s misshapen neighbor is passed over by the consumer, even though it tastes just as good and is just as fresh. Intentionally using and purchasing the “ugly” fruits and vegetables keeps them out of the grocery store’s dumpster. Additionally, creating demand for ugly produce will ultimately help to reduce waste on the farming, manufacturing, and distribution levels, making an even larger impact in reducing wasted food. Learn more about France’s successful ugly produce campaign and about the growing movement in the United States.
  4. Start with yourself and learn more about food insecurity and wasted food. See the links embedded throughout this post. Then, share what you’ve learned with your friends and family. Tell them what they can do too. Write a letter to your representative. Tell them to support a waste ban or to advocate for standardizing food labels, explain the severity of hunger in your region. Spread this message to whoever you can, however you can.
  5. Volunteer with Campus Kitchen. The Campus Kitchens Project is a nonprofit organization working to prevent hunger by preventing food waste and developing student leaders. At Augsburg, the leftover food from the cafeteria is recovered, delivered, and served to a variety of Cedar Riverside locations. We also cook, lead nutrition education, manage the community garden, and glean at a local Farmer’s Market. And we could use your help! Shifts run every day of the week at a variety of times. We meet on campus and we’ll drive you there. It’s easy, convenient, fun, and meaningful, and you can engage with the Augsburg community while enjoying a free meal. Learn more and sign up for shifts
  6. Remember that it’s more than a meal, it’s a movement. Advocates across the country are working to feed more people and waste less food. So, every time you eat consciously, throw less out, or serve a meal, you’re giving traction to a growing movement. Without each of us working on a personal level to create change, we won’t be able to change the system and wipe out hunger while making food recovery the new norm. So, waste less, learn more, and feed others.

By Emily Campbell (’17)

Emily Campbell is a sophomore studying Sociology and Peace and Global Studies. This is her third semester working with Campus Kitchen and she absolutely loves it. During those three semesters, she’s participated at each different site at least once, but she currently leads the shift at the Peace House every Tuesday. The Peace House is a place where marginalized individuals can gather in community for a meal and conversation. Each trip to the Peace House is a new experience, and she looks forward to it every week.