Listen to Riya’s inspiring story of connecting surplus food in her Chicago school to a local caring agency each day!
My name is Riya Chadha and I go to the University of Chicago Laboratory High Schools in Illinois. Every Tuesday me and a group of cafeteria members pack extra food that would otherwise be thrown away, such as cold sandwiches, salads, fruits, pastries, beverages, etc. into crates. Around 25 food items can fit into a crate, and depending on the week, we donate 6-9 crates of food. The food goes to the Door of Hope shelter, a shelter for men in transition, and a Reverand picks up the food and brings it over every week. The food used to go to the shelter You Can Make It, but it unfortunately closed down. Seeing how enthusiastic people were about the Surplus Project and talking to the Reverand and other people who we are giving food to has been incredibly rewarding. I feel that I have made some amazing connections with people, and I like to think that I helped bridge the gap between food waste and food insecurity.
I got this idea after seeing this operation at Rush Oak Park Hospital and Palos Community Hospital, and I felt that it would be perfect to bring to my school since we live in Hyde Park, which is a high need area. It took work to pitch this project to several administrators, such as Mrs. Campos, the Dean of Students, and Collen Coyle, the Director of Family Life, and get them on board, however, I was eventually met with a lot of enthusiasm. These people helped me carry this project through to the end, and Mrs. Coyle ended up becoming the sponsor for my club. The club is based around this project, and it is very discussion-based, but we also have hosted fundraisers and lunch packagings. While researching different topics of discussion for this club, I have learned a lot about food insecurity and situational poverty, and I have become very interested in preventing food waste. I now hope to expand this project, and I would love to bring it to the University of Chicago cafeterias since our high school is within the campus.
When the enormously complex issue of food waste overwhelms you, you need to connect with John Williamson at Food Rescue. He has been leading the way in eliminating food waste through his extensive outreach of food recovery programs. When I began focusing on how much perfectly good food was being thrown away in our schools, it kept me up at night. I found Food Rescue and learned that John has not only created a solution, but also paved an easy path for people like me to follow. His website offers a wealth of information on how to initiate a successful food recovery program yourself.
Above and beyond providing valuable resources, John has walked me through the process over several phone conversations and dozens of emails. He helped me overcome the typical roadblocks that exist when trying to convince school administrators that donating food is encouraged by the EPA, USDA, and legally acceptable under the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. His mission to create student leaders is the only way change will occur on this level. I shared his student videos with our school’s Green Club and it inspired these kids to take ownership of the first food recovery pilot program in the district. They are now teaching other kids the importance of keeping food out landfills and providing an alternative to throwing away unwanted food.
I hope to inspire others just as John has inspired me. When more people become aware of the fact that 40% of the food in this country goes uneaten while 1 in 7 families struggle with food insecurity, we can create local action to bridge this gap. Food waste is not just a distribution problem; it is a lack of awareness and understanding. Organizations like Food Rescue are helping to shed light on the liability protection for good faith donors and remove obstacles to get food on the table of those in need. Thank you John Williamson for empowering me with knowledge so that I can make a difference in my own community.
FOOD RESCUE NOTE: Jennifer's work can be seen here, and she is currently mentoring a neighboring school district who inquired about K-12 Food Rescue on our website.
You Rock Jennifer!!!!!!! Thanks for the guest blog post!
In October of 2015, Jennifer Kainz reached out to Food Rescue to learn more about the resources she had seen on our site. Our impact is driven through story telling, resource sharing, and collaboration. By sharing these things freely, a beautiful story is developing in Barrington, IL Jennifer will be guest blogging here soon to share her story, but please enjoy this article written by Kate Smith at Barrington365 for a preview.
Ever wonder how much food gets thrown out in the lunchroom at Barrington High School? Well, the founders of a new Barrington non-profit, Mindful Waste, are shedding new light on the answer plus a few key takeaways after a lunchroom waste audit they hosted at BHS Thursday. In just one day, they collected 27 pounds of uneaten food, 42 pounds of garbage headed for the landfill, 84.6 pounds of food scraps for composting, 28 pounds of liquid being thrown away and 36 pounds of recycling. Wow – We’re talking some serious trash!
Jennifer Kainz and Renee Blue, who organized the audit, are co-founders of Mindful Waste, a new organization committed to eliminating food waste through education, prevention and recovery. Renee says, “First and foremost, we are trying to find ways to prevent food waste and increase consumption of healthy foods. And, when that fails, we want to help rescue the unwanted food that gets thrown in the trash every day and put that rescued food into the hands of the one-in-five families in our area that are food insecure.”
Jennifer, Renee and a team of volunteers hosted the event at BHS to continue raising awareness of the waste generated by schools. “Our hope is that the waste audit creates some momentum at the high school that will engage students, staff and faculty in looking at the waste that the school generates and finding creative solutions to these problems,” Renee says. “Mindful Waste is here and eager to support their efforts, but we hope the movement will be student-led through engagement and commitment.” All of the organic waste from the BHS audit was brought to Prairieland Disposal to be composted and the unwanted food was delivered to Cuba Township Food Pantry.
Jennifer and Renee have sponsored similar waste audits in District 220 schools at Prairie, Countryside, Roslyn and Hough and have found an noteworthy correlation. The lunch time allotted for the different age groups is quite different:
“When students cannot finish or choose not to finish their food, we would like to give them an alternative to sending their food to a landfill,” Renee says. “The best way to do this is through food recovery programs.” Mindful Waste has partnered with Northern Illinois Food Bank to make food recovery in the schools a reality. Recovered food will be sent to centralized locations and the Food Bank will send representatives to pick it up.
Some exciting news is that the Barrington 220 school district has approved a pilot food recovery program at Countryside Elementary school, which will start next week. Mindful Waste donated a refrigerator so that milk and other perishable items like cheese and yogurt can be rescued along with fruit and sealed packaged items. Additionally, the Village of Barrington and Barrington 220 will begin composting food scraps this spring, as provided in the new Groot contract approved by the Village Board in October of 2015.
The 220 HESS (Healthy and Environmentally Sustainable Schools) committee has set some great goals for the near future. One of these goals is a 25% reduction of solid waste going to landfills by 2020—a goal that Jennifer and Renee believe is entirely reachable if we reduce the amount of uneaten food and compost our food scraps. With all this momentum, Renee and Jennifer say now is a perfect time to raise awareness of the volume of food waste we generate as a community and move forward with action.
CLICK HERE for more information about the cause and ways you can pitch in to reduce waste in our lunchrooms and beyond.
by Kate Smith at Barrington365
**To see the original post visit: http://365barrington.com/2016/01/30/mindful-waste-lunchroom-audit-barrington-high-school/