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.

No Food Left Behind! (3/26/13)

An interesting fact learned in my Organizational Dynamics class focusing on Food Recovery is that “food thrown out in the US – by households, supermarkets, restaurants, and convenience stores – would have been enough to satisfy every single one of the world’s malnourished people two times over.” (Stuart 2009) Although this statistic did not mention food thrown away from departmental functions across organizations, I can imagine this would factor in greatly to the amount of food wasted on a daily basis. Within my department alone, although we tend to be very conscientious of the amount of food we order per attendee, sometimes leftovers are inevitable. Because of my increased awareness of the amount of food that is wasted per year, I have focused my efforts on changing my daily lifestyle and what I can do to help make a difference, beginning with myself.

Leftover Primo Hoagies
Leftover Primo’s Hoagies

 

As you can see from the pictures, these were leftover Primo’s Hoagies that I brought home that went unconsumed at a department event. I encouraged another co-worker to take half and I took the other half. Not only were these hoagies consumed that night (Thursday) for dinner but also on Sunday night with an array of other leftover foods that were pulled from the refrigerator including, salad that many would have thrown out although it was still good, chicken quesadillas from Saturday night, and rice from a previous meal.

Primo Hoagies Meal
Leftover Primo’s Hoagies

Before running to the food store, take the time to look through your Freezer/Fridge/Pantry to see what meals can be concocted. Be creative and go food shopping in your own house to use up the food you have. You would be amazed at what you can pull together. Not only are you saving food, but you are saving money! (Win Preechawutthidech)

In Praise of Ugly Bananas (3/16/13)

After studying a lot about food waste issues, I came to realize that the simple phrase ‘looks can be deceiving’ isn’t only applicable to humans, but to food and fruit as well. I mean, it is no secret that people shop with their eyes. Take me, for example. Two months ago if you had asked me my opinion on “imperfect” fruit, I would have said that bruises and blemishes on fruit don’t actually matter and we should only judge fruits and vegetables by their nutritional worth. But, after making that statement I would have walked into a supermarket to buy the brightest, most flawless looking fruit that caught my eye. Aren’t we all like that, eh?

A week ago I took a short trip to a grocery store. I found these bananas sitting at the bottom of the shelf, neglected. The skin of these bananas was flawed, with black dots showing that they were soon going to be overripe.

Bananas on Stand
Neglected bananas on a shelf

Food waste results from the misuse of resources. How we choose our food, as well as whether we consume it once it comes home with us, makes a huge difference. I have tasted ‘ugly’ fruit as well as ‘attractive’ fruit, and I know that there is no difference in taste and nutritional value. I could see how these bananas would end up in a landfill. That night, I decided to buy the bananas to eat them and also to make smoothies. As expected, they tasted just wonderful and looked perfect on the inside.

I think this is a perfect example of scary-looking fruit that may impede us from tasting their wonderful goodness. We must remember that yes, looks can be deceiving and not all ugly fruit tastes awful, and at the same time, not all pretty-looking fruit are tasty. Please take ugly fruit into consideration next time you go out shopping. Remember, food waste is something that affects us all, and everybody can take part in battling this issue together. (Win Preechawutthidech)

Show me the Money (3/5/13)

Who doesn’t like having a wallet filled with bills? A bank account topped up? A credit card balance zero-ed out? Even if you’re not particularly materialistic, chances are you prefer to have some dough. If so, you came to the right place! In just six weeks, I’ve noticed significant savings by reducing my food waste.

Money
Cash Money

Since the middle of January I’ve started shopping out of my fridge, eating my way through my pantry, buying smaller quantities, and saving all of my leftovers to reduce food waste. Turns out this is actually good for the bank account too.

With all of these changes I’ve gone to the grocery store six times in six weeks. There have only been two visits when I spent more than $30 dollars (just the other day I spent $52 buying ice cream cake for 20 people for a friend’s birthday, and at the end of January I spent $32 at Trader Joe’s). Other than that, I’ve been spending less than $25 on my trips down the food aisles. And, if you don’t count my party purchases, I was averaging just $25 a week. Sure, I’ve eaten meals out. But, at three meals a day for seven days a week that means I’m spending less than $4 a meal on grocery store food (and, some of that includes items like toilet paper, paper towels, and dish liquid). Wow!!

Rittenhouse Market Receipt
Cash Money

I can tell by the size and weight of my basket that I’m buying a lot less, but I was curious how this compared to my pre-experiment shopping habits. Since I almost always pay for groceries with my credit card I decided to look back at my old statements for a comparison. I couldn’t easily pull-up statements for January and February so I compared my shopping in May of last year (when I was also in Philly for most of the month).

In that four week period I went to the grocery store six times and spent a total of $182.88. That’s an average of $45.72 per week, compared to my current average of $25 per week. At savings of around $20 a week, that would add up to over $1,000 a year. If you show me that kind of money, I can definitely find better ways to spend it! If I can keep this up, I could be enjoying leftovers on a different continent at this time next year.