Food Recovery Network rescues food from the kitchen that has not been served to students and donates it to Safe Harbor, Rescue Mission, and Moon Towers. Diverting food from landfill benefits the clients of these organizations and ends the food-to-landfill pathway.
As part of our food waste reduction mission, FRN hosts the Weigh the Waste (WTW) campaign to raise awareness of food waste in the cafeteria on the consumer end of our food system. WTW asks students to look at their role in the food life-cycle and think about ways in which they might prevent their individual food waste contributions.
Weigh the Waste is upsetting for you, the students
First and foremost, Weigh the Waste is inconvenient and stressful for you, the students, we understand that at FRN. We are asking you to scrape your leftover food into our bin in front of a watching audience as you juggle your backpack and other possessions, all while you are trying to get to other obligations. If that’s not stress inducing, I don’t know what is. On top of that, as you scrape and dutifully look at the scale, you realize that you’ve only contributed 0.1 pounds to the pile of smelly and unappealing scraps in the bucket. What’s the point? You only added 0.1 pounds of food to the bucket, that’s next to nothing.
Here’s the point: you are not just wasting the food you see, consider that the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is a massive amount of water, labor, fossil fuels, money and time used to grow, transport and cook that food for you. According to a research study performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Vermont, published in the journal PLOS One, the year’s worth of wasted food also means wasting 4.2 trillion gallons of irrigation water, and 30 million acres of farmland.
Weigh the Waste is exasperating for FRN volunteers
The FRN exec team and volunteers took time to plan for this week, contribute several hours of our day to encourage students to scrape their plates, receive mumbled grievances, chase down people that blatantly ignore us and on top of all that try to smile and maintain a positive atmosphere throughout the entire event. We understand that we are asking you to add to your routine, but as we continue the event, I urge you to remember that we, your peers, are not immune to the snide remarks and glares that are occasionally thrown our way. If you feel that we can make this event more positive, more interactive, etc., we are always looking for ways to minimize the negative feedback for this event. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or ask a volunteer
Weigh the Waste is disheartening for Bon Appétit
Whether or not this aspect of WTW concerns you is up to you. Regardless, several caf workers come up to our table or our scale every meal and ask what types of food are being thrown away most, and how they might adjust for that. While this campaign is not meant to help Bon Apptit figure out their menu issues, or even their cooking quality issues, the event does open up reflection on their end as to how students feel about their service. If you run into continuous issues of cooking quality issues, take advantage of their suggestion box, and maybe we can improve food quality and decrease food waste on our end.
You know the why, here is what you can do
Achieving zero food waste for every meal is close to impossible. This event is not meant to invoke guilt, criticize, or single out people with eating disorders or other dietary restrictions. The food might be seasoned wrong, it might be under or overcooked, you might have taken too much, or decided that you didn’t want to eat a particular dish after all. These are all incredibly valid reasons to have leftovers on your plate.
During a time when many feel helpless and hopeless with all of the injustices going on in the world, FRN hopes to empower students to make a change in their everyday interactions with food with Weigh the Waste. These are choices that you can make to make a difference in the issue of climate change, sustainability and social justice.