How can we sustain an ever-growing world population and also protect the planet’s natural resources? Around the globe, according to UNICEF, malnutrition results in the loss of around three million young lives a year, yet approximately one third of the world’s food supply goes to waste each year. Discarding 222 million tons of food each day, consumers in rich countries waste as much as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. This shocking statistic illustrates the incredible disparity between the rich and the poor, between developed countries, where tossing leftovers away is rarely given a second thought, and developing countries, where having enough food to feed your family is a constant challenge.
Allison Zhu, my partner in launching the Food Waste Challenge, and I came face to face with this food access disparity in 2016, when we visited rural villages in Ahmedabad, India with the Niswarth Learning in the World Program. India is home to one of the most undernourished populations in the world, but our local hosts welcomed us with what little food that they had.
Returning from India to the Andover community, the stark contrast in food access struck us; we immediately noticed how much edible food was regularly discarded. Curious about how much food the community wasted every day in Paresky Commons, Allison and I partnered with the Paresky team and the Campus Sustainability Team to gather concrete data on campus food waste. We found that the Andover community wastes about 7205 pounds per week. Remembering the Manav Sadhna organization’s motto “Love All Serve All” that we tried to follow throughout our Niswarth experience, Allison and I started thinking about ways in which we could give back to the communities that had so kindly hosted us, which eventually lead to our creation of the Food Waste Challenge.
This event serves to challenge the community to reduce food waste and raise funds for feeding communities in need. The Andover community’s support for this cause was made clear by the success of this year’s Food Waste Challenge. Prior to the challenge, the average food waste on campus totaled more than 7205 pounds per week. Through small actions, however, such as only taking as much as you need and making sure to clean your entire plate, Andover’s students, faculty, and staff were able to successfully reduce the school’s collective food waste by 1070 pounds in just one week!
Allison and I are incredibly happy to see students across campus take small steps to make a meaningful difference and to promote awareness of the gravity of food waste. Our impact extends far beyond the boundaries of campus; as part of the challenge, we raised USD 1345 which will be donated to Bread and Roses, a soup kitchen in Lawrence, Massachusetts. From my experience volunteering at Cor Unum, a meal center in Lawrence, I know how far these donations will go. Bread and Roses provides nearly 50,000 nutritious meals every year to Lawrence citizens who are in need.
We live in the Andover Bubble, largely unaffected by problems such as food scarcity. But I am proud that despite our access to food at Andover, our community has taken significant measures to support this cause. I am now excited to see how community members will continue contributing to this cause outside of the Food Waste Challenge. Go Big Blue!
Editor’s Note: Allison Zhu is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.