When a High School Student in Charlotte became interested in solving the school food waste issue, her research led her to find Mike, and he connected the amazing Hanna Wondmagegn with Food Rescue, and below is her story. Hanna will be delivering at Ted Talk in April, and we are very excited to share her story here, and support her efforts and vision to see K-12 Food Rescue expand throughout the country, and make the 1 billion food items wasted annually in our schools a thing of the past. Food Rescue is so proud of Hanna, and we know students across the nation can and will follow her leadership.
Food Recovery At East Mecklenburg High School
By Hanna Wondmagegn
Hunger is an issue that people have been trying to combat for many years and the answer is right in front of our faces. If one was to sit in a school cafeteria, the amount of uneaten food that is thrown away is incredible! All of that food has the potential to feeding so many people in the community and potentially the whole nation if every school found a way to collect the uneaten food.
My sophomore year of high school, I took a trip to my old elementary school and I noticed something incredible: little kids, no taller than my elbow were spilling out the milk they had opened and were recycling the cartons. That got me to thinking that if young children are able to do something like recycle milk cartons, then surely older students could do the same? I realized, I’m in the cafeteria, where there is food, so let’s change something there.
Immediately I began researching information about organizations in Charlotte that would be willing to pick up uneaten school foods from the schools. I was astonished to realize that there was not any organization that took advantage of the school food waste! I came across the Food Recovery Group based in North Carolina and contacted President Mike Cookman about the idea of collecting school food. He immediately responded and said that he would be willing to work with us.
That night, Food Recovery was born, a program where pre-packaged, uneaten food is collected during all lunches and breakfasts every day and then is picked up by an organization who distributes the food to people in need. The setup is simple: a cooler with ice sitting in the cafeteria and when the bell rings, instead of people throwing uneaten food away, they take it to the cooler to be saved. The food is then collected by our EC kids and Congress students who then take it to a fridge where the organization then picks up the food.
Initially, it was very difficult to start the program because there was not a Food Recovery Program anywhere in North Carolina or in the South for that matter. I came across K-12 Food Rescue in Indiana and Mike helped me get in contact with President John Williamson. John was immediately on board and sent me invaluable documents, paperwork and suggestions that helped frame the program at East Meck and will make it easier for any future programs in North Carolina.
As of today, we have recovered over 4,100 food items and with this program, many more food items can be recovered and sent to people who may not have much to eat. The Food Recovery Program is a revolutionary program that schools across the nation should not hesitate to implement; reducing food waste, feeding the hungry and saving the world, what’s not to love?