Throughout this past week, members of the Food Recovery Network have been seen stationed in the caf collecting large bins of leftover food. The club began the campaign to deter food waste, which involves collecting uneaten food from students’ plates and weighing it during lunch and dinner. Since this is the first time the campaign has been implemented, the members of the club were not sure what would come as a result.
Sophomore Karen Caballero, president of the club, wanted to raise awareness about the amount of food waste produced at Knox. In the past, the club has been committed to making daily food runs, collecting unused food from the caf and bringing it to local charities. However, there is more food leftover than what should be.
“We wanted to show people that food waste also happens in other ways,” Caballero said. “And that is through your plate and the food that you pick.”
She noted that while food waste is not a huge problem on campus relatively speaking, members of the club collect on average about 5,000 pounds per term. The amount of food wasted at Knox is relatively small in comparison to larger schools, where thousands of pounds of food are wasted daily. The unused food at Knox does not go to waste, however, and is donated to local homeless shelters in need.
“There are a lot of problems going on and sometimes food waste can be ignored or not talked about most of the time,” Caballero said. “So we just hope to raise awareness that this is happening and that it’s happening here.”
Freshman Meryl Davis agreed that the goal of the campaign is to bring attention to how much of a problem food waste is, and how easy it can be to prevent. This campaign differs from their previous work, however, because its focus is more on the post-consumer aspect. It requires a more individualized approach.
Davis expressed that, especially near the beginning of the week, most of the motivation was due to social aspects.
“They didn’t have any immediate incentives,” Davis said. “I suppose guilt could be an incentive, not one that we planned for at all.”
Both Caballero and Davis noticed several patterns regarding food waste throughout the week, and the data they collected revealed a downward trend in the amount of food waste as the week progressed. In addition to the change in the amount of food wasted each day, the change in student mindsets was also noteworthy.
“By Wednesday, instead of us asking them to come drop the waste, it was instead the students independently coming up to us and dropping their own waste,” Caballero said. “We were not pushing them anymore, it was more like cooperation from the students.”
Caballero and Davis both noted that much of the success of the campaign was due to the participation of the students. Aside from a cancellation on Friday due to a miscommunication of times, the campaign went over smoothly and experienced few setbacks.
“Dining Services were very supportive throughout the week,” said Caballero. “And that’s actually one of their main things too, to promote food waste awareness.”
Despite the apparent success of the campaign, Davis has already started to notice people falling back into old habits of taking too much food. She recognizes that there is still room for improvement.
“We didn’t really explain too much what the benefits are to not wasting as much,” Davis said. “I think that was something that was lacking. We should definitely have more stats behind the food waste for next year.”
While students had been making an effort to decrease their overall amount of food waste last week, the absence of outside pressure has allowed them to continue to waste food without feeling the guilt of having to scrape their wasted food into the bin. The guilt factor implemented by the campaign seemed only to be temporary, so the campaign will have to be a frequent occurrence in order for it to affect a more permanent change. Ideally, students will gain more substantial knowledge about the problems caused by food waste.
The two agree that the campaign resulted in many of the students becoming more mindful of the amount of food they take in line, and are planning to continue this campaign for a few days each term. The club is hoping to raise awareness and inspiration that goes beyond guilt and self-consciousness.