By Joseph Martinus Sanchez
Allow me to help you recall that unpleasant, “OH Nooo! the world is DOOMED,” guilty sentiment you experienced when you sat transfixed while watching a documentary on animal cruelty, social injustice, and/or the environment. Hold on to that.
Recently, the Los Angeles Times put forth an interesting story that supplements our team’s current project: food waste. Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the nation that serves 650,000 meals a day, reports an annual loss of $18 million dollars from food waste. OH Nooo?
This crisis of towering food waste that we are responsible for demands attention. If left unattended, our environment will gradually swallow what’s left of our species. The amount of natural resources needed for food production is all too well known by now. So why are we continuously wasting food and making this planet challenging to inhabit?
Feeling like the world is DOOMED?
Under the UCLA’s Action Research Team umbrella, our team, Sustainable Food Systems, has solutions. We are confident enough that this opportunity at hand will help us control food waste at the residential dining halls. This quarter is dedicated to education, awareness, and behavioral change. Last quarter we measured food and liquid waste from two distinct dining halls. Our conclusions are shocking. It turns out that food waste, in the university dining halls, is still the same as it was five years ago! Students are wasting about three ounces of solids per dining period. That is the equivalent of three slices of bread--a costly food to produce, environmentally speaking. Queasy? Guilty? As am I.
Our team’s mission is to change behavior. In the Los Angeles Times’ article, a high school student was asked why she threw away perfectly edible food, “ If the food was good food, we’d have no problems” (LA Times. Print, 4/2/14). In the following weeks, we will engage with students to find out why they are each throwing away the equivalent of three slices of bread every day.
By listening to what the students have to say, we will then be able to maximize our efforts and truly be satiated with our results from Winter Quarter (the appetizer). Now to fire up the entrée. I call this a golden opportunity for our team, one that will give us useful information that will drive food waste here at UCLA’s residential dining facilities, and our city, down to zero.
Feeling better? This is the moment where you let go of those feelings I made you recall earlier. Now you should walk away from this feeling empowered and ready to save the world, and eat.
In the meantime, I suggest we collect all of that bread and whip up some delicious Bruin Bread Pudding; perhaps run it as a daily special?
Image courtesy of www.earthday.org