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‘Taste Not Waste’ campaign strives to reduce plate waste

Trays of plate waste circle around on the Anderson Commons carousel.
Photo by Sage Larson.

What began as a cooperation between Linda James’s, assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics, Inquiry, “Food in the World,” and Joan Kopperud’s, English professor, IWC, “Food is Identity, Culture, and Conflict,” flourished into a campus-wide campaign that’s making a big impact.

Kopperud’s students were inspired to begin a movement after the field research they performed for their IWC class. Students observed and helped dispose of the plate waste in Anderson Commons during last year’s fall semester, with little foreknowledge about how much food is wasted everyday at the front of the house in DS.

Freshman Audrey Ulliman obtained a bet-ter idea of the waste created in DS through the project.

“There was some really surprising things that I would see. Like people would waste whole things of fruit without a single bite in them. Or if a banana had a bruise on [it] they wouldn’t eat it all. It was so upsetting,” Ulliman said.

Soon after, the Dietetic Interns, who’ve been collecting research on the plate waste in Anderson Commons for years to complete CRD 4.7 requirement for the Dietetic Internship, presented data detailing the amount of plate waste coming out of DS; based on daily, weekly, monthly and per student measurements, to the IWC students.

Once again, student reaction was total shock. According to the plate waste data from October 2016, the daily average in pounds of plate waste for breakfast, lunch, and dinner equals to 329 pounds. The monthly average is 9,870 pounds.

In addition to this, the average customer in Anderson wastes approximately 15.45 percent of his or her food at every meal, making the typical cost of plate waste in DS approximately $4,966.65 dollars per week. This totals near $150,000 of food waste per academic year.

According to Kopperud, her IWC students’ continuous response to this was, “Why didn’t someone tell us?”

From this eye-opening experience, the Taste Not Waste campaign was born. Both Kopperud and her students established a resolution to aid in the plate waste issue at Concordia.

Soon, goals were being set with consideration of the USDA and EPA’s national goals to reduce food waste in the United States by 50 percent by 2030 and Concordia’s mission statement in mind.

On November 1, 2016, President Craft announced Taste Not Waste’s goal: to reduce plate waste in Anderson Commons by 50 percent by 2020, a decade ahead of the national goal set by the USDA and EPA.

Sage Larson

Kopperud said that the goal is, “To help the community be mindful of their own food practices.”

Despite the height of this objective, Kopperud and Meredith Wagner, assistant professor of dietetics and nutrition and dietetic internship director, are now co-founders of the Taste Not Waste campaign, and they express unrelenting faith in Concordia’s ability to do this.

Kopperud revealed the reality of the goal’ feasibility.

“It doesn’t cost anything, it’s just about be ing mindful,” Kopperud said.

Moreover those involved in Taste No Waste are confident in the goal’s fulfillment because it’s something that Concordia stu dents want to do. It’s something they’ve be come enlightened and passionate about, ac cording to Kopperud.

“I believe that Concordia students are ready to change their food waste habits because they have seen the problem first-hand and they’ve researched and written about solutions.” Kopperud said. “The commitment to reduce food waste in Anderson Commons meaningfully and directly connects students’ lives in the community in which they live and learn, better preparing them today as citizens for tomorrow.”

This revelation of the need for change has continually appeared in students who’ve had personal experiences with Taste Not Waste.

“Seeing all the waste in Anderson during our field research as well as my practice in Buddhism has made me think more about my food waste,” Ulliman said. “I also really think about how my waste is going to contribute to the world.”

Sarah Johnson, another student from Kopperud’s IWC, reflected on her personal food waste as well.

“I have to be conscious,” Johnson said.

This clear recognition of a somewhat invisible problem for Concordia students has sparked great levels of dedication to and activism for plate waste reduction in Anderson Commons. When Taste Not Waste offered students the opportunity to sign a pledge to be more conscientious of their plate waste, they collected over 100 signatures. Perhaps this evident passion was what caught Jonathan Bloom’s attention.

Last year, not long after the campaign’s beginning, Jonathan Bloom, the blogger of Wasted Food, author of “American Wasteland” as well as multiple articles that’ve been published in National Geographic, Food Tank, and Huffington Post reached out and contacted the co-founders of Taste Not Waste hoping to visit campus and be a part of the movement at Concordia.

“I was just so impressed with the efforts already underway to weigh and minimize plate waste,” Bloom said in an email. “It made me think if a campus was already engaged on the issue, it has a chance to do something quite special. And halving food waste by 2020 would be both special and unprecedented.”

Bloom visited Concordia’s campus Feb. 22. He delivered a speech in the Centrum, sharing his knowledge about food waste and his passion for a solution.

For Bloom, the fight against food waste began when he was just a child.

“My parents taught me to appreciate food. When I began writing about food and learned how much food America wastes, I realized that not everyone shares that value,” Bloom said in an email. “I decided to shed light on our national food waste habit in hopes of remedying this massive problem.”

Throughout his life, Bloom has advocated for a greater awareness on the importance of this issue, it’s impact on the United States, and on the world.

When asked why this problem is important for college students, he said, “This issue is so vital for all of us, because America wasting 40 percent of its food has harmful ethical, environmental and economic consequences,” Bloom said. “And it’s quite simple to have an impact–just be mindful in your approach to food. If you’re heeding that uneaten food, you’ll find your own answers.”

The Taste Not Waste campaign is fueled by the goal to reduce plate waste in Anderson Commons for the sake of a more mindful community at Concordia, because, as Wagner said in an interview, “No one isn’t impacted by this issue.”

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