You Can Make a Difference! (4/10/13)

I feel as though various problems within the world seem so astronomical (which many are) because a person does not feel like they can have a direct personal impact. As a result, there is little desire to feel inclined to institute change. There is a stigma that it is impossible to solve a problem so global and large scale in nature, so why bother trying to help? This mentality is completely wrong and I could not have been more fortunate to be a part of this Global PENNovation class within the Organizational Dynamics Masters Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

I can admit to my guilt and ignorance of the issue of food waste. I was that individual who would not take home leftovers from a restaurant and if I did, I knew they would not be consumed and would just be thrown away at a later date. I was that consumer who would enter a supermarket scouring for the best looking produce, ignoring those with any minor indication of a blemish or reaching for the milk carton with the latest expiration date. I was guilty of all of these things because I was unaware and not held accountable for my actions.

You can make a difference!

After seeing our efforts come to fruition at our food waste recovery campaign, Pheedin’ Philly which was held here on Penn’s Campus on 4/4/13, I can truly say that I feel I have made a difference beginning with myself. Students were intrigued with our event and could not believe the amount of food we recovered from local vendors that would have been thrown away otherwise. To my surprise, many Penn students who I spoke with were aware of this issue and very informed which was enlightening to hear. For those who were less familiar, they were willing to listen and express their thoughts on possible actions we as consumers can make. This expressed interest was refreshing. This class may not have solved world hunger, but I feel as though we definitely instilled a message to hundreds of people who stopped by our event. I am extremely pleased with the outcome of our efforts and know that I have learned a monumental amount from our professors and guest lecturers and will definitely use this knowledge to keep myself informed and I will pass it on to others. (Lindsay Cull)


Final Reflections Blog (4/9/13)

It went something like this: “Do you know what we are doing here today? We are running a food waste awareness campaign. We formed partnerships with a couple local bakeries and restaurants and they donated food to us that they would have thrown out last night. All the food you see here would instead be in landfills today. We are bringing it to you so you see how perfectly edible, delicious and nutritious it still is… Do you have an idea about how much food waste we produce as a nation?”… 

Amazingly, most people paid close attention to what I had to say. Never before had I been to an event where people actually wanted to learn more – maybe because food is so near and dear to our hearts that the thought of all that yummy food being in the trash was something that they just couldn’t make sense of. I am pretty sure that, for that moment with us, our audience felt repulsed and angry, and wanted to change their behavior and the behavior of others. It is hard to say what happened to each individual as they walked away – did they retain our message and work on their habits; or did they munch away on the bagel and move on to whatever they were dwelling on before? Impossible as this is to answer, I hope that our choice of giveaways has a direct impact with our audience at home.

I thoroughly enjoyed our event and believe we accomplished what we set out to do. We have learned a whole lot about food waste and have passed that knowledge on to others in our community. Within the time span that we had to complete this project this semester (very brief 3 months), I could not be more satisfied with our most important deliverable – a sharp yet simple event that was created by each and every one of us and executed to a measure barely short of perfection.

I am very proud to have been part of this project and feel blessed to have been a part of this class – for all that I have learned and for having met some amazing individuals who renew my faith in humankind and let me believe that one day, food waste will have been history. (Sarah Muller)

Continued Encouragement (4/8/13)

As our class nears the end, I sit here reflecting on the lessons learned along the way. At the start of GlobalPENNovation, I must admit I was extremely unaware of the global issue of food waste. Twelve weeks later, I am by no means an expert on the issue but I feel this overwhelming sense of desire to continue to try to make a difference. Whether the difference I make is becoming involved in external interest and/or volunteer groups, or if I continue with my own personal strides to change my behaviors and attitudes about food, food waste and food recovery, only time will tell.

The guest speakers and resources we have been exposed to were absolutely wonderful, and shared thoughtful knowledge and insight that I will always remember. For me, what really helped me understand food waste and what we as consumers can do about it were the tons of consumer tips we discovered during the course. Most of the tips were very clear, and seemed almost so simple, that I felt silly that I did not consider them beforehand. For instance, being a busy individual with work, school and other activities, time is a huge factor. Many times, I would go to the grocery store with not much thought of pre-planning meals. In turn, I would sometimes overbuy perishable products which ended in waste. How could I solve this problem? The answer for me was pre-planning a grocery trip with scheduled meals throughout the week, or batch cooking on a free weekend day and freezing meals. The freezer has become my new best friend. There are so many things you can freeze to extend shelf life – overripe bananas, soon to be stale breads and/or bagels, homemade gravies or sauces, the list is endless. In addition, the statistics I learned relative to food waste was a huge eye opener. It amazes me that 40% of the food produced is wasted, and that wasted food could ultimately solve world hunger. I’m shocked that the food wasted could fill the Rose Bowl. These statistics are still hard for me to grasp. If we have all of this food available, why wouldn’t we be salvaging it? We could easily kill two birds with one stone and help millions of hungry individuals.

Through my learning’s, I can positively say that my consumer behaviors have changed for the better. I continue to spread awareness on a daily basis to friends and family. When they hear about the efforts we have made to spread this awareness to the local Penn community, they are amazed at the issue themselves. Food waste is one of those issues, to me, I feel people are just unaware of.  They do not know the statistics that I have been exposed to (really only through signing up for this Organizational Dynamics class). I am continuously grateful that after reading the course syllabus and being intrigued, that I registered. I feel very encouraged and have a positive outlook that the global issue of food waste, one day, will be diminished. By creating awareness through education, we can hopefully change the mind set of one individual at a time. (Win Preechawutthidech)

I can’t say enough…(4/7/13)

Seriously, I can’t say… at least not very effectively. You see, I am generally a quiet person, so talking for almost two straight hours about food waste has left my voice somewhat coarse. So, since I’m temporarily impaired from speaking, I’m going to write this blog.

Event Photo - Full Group 1
Org Dynm 615, armed with free food and powerful information

Our food waste awareness event was an amazing success. Our project team, also known as DYNM615 in the Organizational Dynamics program, put together a feast of excess food by collecting donations from local vendors. Even after a semester of studying the global food waste issue, we were amazed at the amount of quality food that was heading for the landfill. Armed with totes, magnets, and T-shirts in addition to A LOT of food, we invited students to stop by for some free gifts and food. Shortly after setting up, we had a crowd of people stopping at our table.

Event Photo Our Table and Students in Action
Org Dynm 615, armed with free food and powerful information

I had expected that giving away free food would attract hungry college students, so the crowd didn’t surprise me much. However, what did surprise me was that after people realized why we were there and understood that the food giveaways were originally destined for the landfill… they didn’t leave. A highly energized project team told the story of food waste over and over. Guests leaned in to be able to hear the team members over the crowd noise. Some people asked to be contacted for future efforts, others asked follow-up questions to better understand how this could be true, and many just shook their heads in disbelief. Facial expressions told the story fully, as guests at our table displayed emotions of shock, disgust, and in some cases, anger.

Do I think that raising awareness will change behaviors? If this event is any indication, you bet it will!

The amount of food we collected from just a few vendors was appalling. The use of technology to spread the word via websites, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter was phenomenal. The video was superb and highly impactful. The production of “free giveaways” items from design through deliver was excellent. The energy, teamwork, and cohesive effort to make an impact on this global issue were unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

Even if I had my voice fully intact, I still wouldn’t be able to say enough about this project team and what they accomplished through the Spring 2013 semester and on the afternoon of Thursday, April 4, 2013…

Rolls and Baked Goods and Breads, Oh My! (4/5/13)

By now some of the food waste stats are seared into my brain. I could probably recite in my sleep that Americans waste about 40% of our food, and I’ve told dozens of people that we throw away enough food every single day to fill the Rose Bowl to the brim (Bloom, 2010). Having grown up in State College – a big football town – I know how big those stadiums are. But, for some reason I was still surprised last Wednesday night.

In preparation for our big event to raise awareness about the issue of food waste, our entire class solicited donations of food that supermarkets, caterers, and restaurants normally would have thrown away.

Cart of Donated Bread_4.4.13
Bread and pastries that would have been thrown away

That night, I got my granny cart and rolled over to a local bakery that was supportive of our cause. This particular business is conscientious about food waste, and one of their other branches regularly donates food to a local homeless shelter at the end of the night. But, this location still had food they would have had to throw away and they were happy to give it to the cause.

I guess I was expecting a couple of rolls and a few loaves of bread. This was just one store, right? Instead they sent me home with a full trash bag full of baguettes, bagels, rolls, and baked goods and a second bag of pizzas, pastries and croissants. On top of that, they apologized for not having more stuff. Apparently, I had caught them on a light night since sales had gone well that day. A light night!!

Event Photo Our Table and Students in Action
Bread and pastries that would have been thrown away

The next day, when I arrived at our booth I found that the rest of our team had recovered even more food. We had boxes of bananas, cartons of strawberries, bunches of asparagus, piles of sandwiches, bags and bags of bread…. In total, we had only gone to eight locations, and we had enough food to entice over 150 hungry college students, community members, and faculty to sign pledges committing to reduce their own food waste.

Students Getting Free Food
Bread and pastries that would have been thrown away

We fed people good meals for over two hours, and some of those students walked away with plates filled with food so they could share with their buddies and have food for dinner too.

This event got me thinking about the next phase of our efforts. Although our class is coming to an end, I’m committed to reducing my own food waste and continuing to encourage others to change their behaviors. Over the past few weeks I’ve focused on changing my own behaviors and encouraging friends, family members, and co-workers to do the same. Actually seeing all the food that would have been thrown away by just a few places in just one night inspired me to do more to encourage businesses to change their practices.

Group at the Table
Bread and pastries that would have been thrown away

When we interviewed Tristram Stuart, author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal, he reminded us that businesses will listen to consumers. This has inspired me to question and challenge the entire food service industry from farm to fork. We can start to make a greater difference by letting managers of supermarkets know that we’ll buy their ugly produce or day old bread (especially if they discount it). We can shop at farmers markets. We can ask restaurants to serve smaller portions and take home all of our left-overs. We can explore composting and encourage those in the food industry to do the same. Beyond changing our own behaviors, we can continue to take steps to change the systems that are creating excess amounts of food waste. So, although I won’t be blogging about it anymore, I’ll continue in my efforts to respect food and reduce waste and take it to the next level by raising my voice and asking questions to encourage others to lead real systems change.

Eggs-elent New Recipes (4/2/13)

Kara sending me home with  Easter Eggs
Kara sending me home with Easter Eggs

For those that celebrate Easter, there are two kinds of families: the ones that hide real eggs and the ones that hide plastic eggs. The Hirshons fall squarely into the first category. We hard boil our eggs, dye them all up, and then hide them all around the house. Finding eggs is good fun, so it’s best to make a pile of them. As a result, at the end of the day you’ve got a couple of cartons worth of eggs to go along with your Cadbury Creme eggs and chocolate bunnies.

Since I don’t usually make it home to State College for Easter anymore, it was comforting to discover that my friend Kara’s family, who always invites me over, is a ‘real egg kind of family’. Since they’re all good cooks, I decided to pick their brains to get recipes for left-over eggs.

Scotch Eggs
Scotch Eggs
Scotch Eggs Recipe
Scotch Eggs Recipe

Growing up, we always made deviled eggs (yum!) and egg salad. They had some new ideas to add into the mix though. Her mom suggested throwing hard boiled eggs into potato salad, pasta salad, and even on top of regular salad. We talked about mixing them into meatloaf, or even putting them onto a fresh baguette with a little salt and pepper and some good tomatoes and lettuce. Then she had me try two dishes I’d never had before that she had already made for our meal. They were so delicious I had to share the recipes.

The Scotch egg looks almost like a samosa. It’s basically a hardboiled egg, wrapped in sausage and then cooked up in a biscuit (or “biscuit parts” as our friend Robin’s two and a half year old son would say). It makes a nice little breakfast sandwich, or it can serve as an appetizer.

The second one was a ham pie. It looks and tastes a lot like a quiche, and each pie includes close to a dozen hard boiled eggs. It was filling enough to be its own meal and you could easily serve it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

A slice of Ham Pie
A slice of Ham Pie
Ham Pie Recipe
Ham Pie Recipe

So, if you come from a real egg family (or celebrate Easter with one), take home as many hard boiled eggs as you can get your hands on and try out one of these recipes. If you’re from one of those plastic egg families, sorry, but you’re on your own for this one. (Lauren Hirshon)

Keeping it Green: Tips to Reduce Food Waste (4/1/13)

I’m Chris Angelucci, and as Special Projects Coordinator for the Organizational Dynamics Masters Degree program at the University of Pennsylvania I plan and run upwards of fifty events, large and small, each year.

I’m always very conscious of the environmental impact of our events, and I’ve developed a few tips to reduce waste.

  1. Order Buffet-Style – This eliminates the waste not only of the individual packaging in boxed meals, but also allows people to take only what they want. How many times have you seen a trash can after a meeting filled with uneaten apples or unopened plastic containers of side-salads?  As an added bonus, buffet-style is more visually attractive.
  2. Order Bulk Beverages – I always order bulk water, presented in a large glass cistern filled with sliced lemons. It looks great, and completely eliminates the plastic bottles. If possible, use this for all your beverages.
  3. Have To-Go Containers Available – I make sure there are plenty of recycled (and compostable) containers ready for attendees to take home leftovers, and then I encourage them to do so. If anything remains after that, I have an easy way to get it back to the office.
  4. Recycling – If there are recycling bins available at the venue, strongly encourage the attendees to recycle their tableware, cups and plates. Plastics recycling isn’t perfect, but it’s better than sending the stuff to the landfill.

These are all things you can do for little or no expense. If you have a bit extra in your budget, many caterers now have even more “green options” like biodegradable tableware, or, better yet, real china plates and metal utensils.

Thanks to the DYNM 615 Pennovation class for asking me to contribute.

(Chris Angelucci;