In March 2018, Andover wasted about 730 pounds of food per day. To combat waste at Andover and hunger in the local community, members of the Eating Awareness Team (EAT) conducted the second annual Food Waste Challenge.
Members of the club counted the number of clean plates that returned on the belt and allocated funds according to pledges and donations.
At first, Cameron Kang ’21 did not know that the Food Waste Challenge existed, but she decided to get involved to help promote better habits in herself and others.
“I think a lot of food is wasted because, especially when you’re in a rush, there are a lot of times when even I could not finish all my food and I had to put it on the belt uneaten or even untouched. So I think that it’s really important that we promote less food waste, especially here. I want to stay involved with the Food Waste Challenge even next year and hopefully join the EAT Club,” said Kang.
Shyan Koul ’19 highlighted the importance of being aware of waste and the privileged position that allows Andover students and faculty to engage in the event.
“I think this was just an incredible way to have awareness about what we’re doing on campus and just being aware of the food that we waste, the food that we eat… just understanding that we come from a background that puts so much privilege of having so much food and that we should at least be aware of what we’re doing. I think, at the very least, even if you’re not going to stop throwing away food, you’re at least going to know how much we throw away, which is really important,” said Koul.
Allison Zhu ’19 and Isabella Morona ’19, co-presidents of EAT, were inspired to start the challenge during their Learning in the World trip to India in 2016. The meals served at one community center resonated with Zhu and Morona.
“One place I really remember us going to is an anganwadi, which in Hindi means ‘local community education center.’ When we were there, it was in Chalal Village in India, and we had one event which was to serve food to the students attending the community center. We saw that their meal was comprised of potatoes and rice, they didn’t really have any proteins, any vegetables, and a lot of the students actually came to school only because that was their only way to get food,” said Zhu.
Zhu and Morona used their experiences on the trip as a catalyst for the Food Waste Challenge, a way to spread awareness about overlooked waste.
“We thought about how we could bring this issue back to Andover; how we could bring community giving, community service, community engagement here… We aren’t really as conscious about food here. Oftentimes, it disappears through the conveyor belts, and we don’t ever really think about how much food we waste,” said Zhu.
In an email to The Phillipian, Morona noted the severe impacts of malnutrition and food waste. She hoped to address these two issues with the Food Waste Challenge.
“I think it is important to regularly remind the community about the impact of food waste on the environment and on external communities. I have seen firsthand the danger of malnutrition on one’s health and of food waste on the environment. I am really moved by these problems and want do the best I can in raising awareness and creating solutions for these. The Food Waste Challenge is just one of the activities that I plan on organizing to make a positive impact on society,” wrote Morona.
In last year’s Food Waste Challenge, 717 clean plates were counted, increasing from 42 percent to 80 percent over the course of the event. The 1,500 dollars raised was sent to two schools for the blind in Ahmedabad, India. Zhu hopes that the percentage of clean plates increases not only on the day of the challenge but also in the future.
“Obviously, we’re hoping to have a lot more percentage of clean plates. As a reflection of the Food Waste Challenge, we really hope that this is not just during one mealtime. It sets an example for future meals and gives me hope that all students will keep in mind that the small actions we have here can result in a great impact and ripple effects in other communities. The things we do here and the amount of time and energy and effort we spend on really focusing on reducing food waste can help other communities too,” said Zhu.
This year’s proceeds will go to Bread and Roses, a soup kitchen in Lawrence, Mass.
Editor’s Note: Allison Zhu is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.