Author says tackling food waste helps your household — and the planet
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Jonathan Bloom, national food waste expert, activist and author of "American Wasteland" will visit Concordia's campus Feb.20-23 as a part of Concordia's goal to reduce its food waste 50 percent by 2020, announced earlier this year by President William Craft.
Concordia's 3-year sustainability initiative funded by the Margaret A. Cargill grant helped bring Bloom to campus.
Concordia staff members hope his visit will increase campus-wide awareness of the national food waste epidemic, its consequences and help reduce food waste further in Anderson Commons, Concordia's largest dining service area.
Bloom travels around the country speaking at colleges and conferences about the issues of food waste. He answers food waste questions on his blog, wastedfood.com, and through his column, "Dear Wasted Food Dude."
In his book "American Wasteland," Bloom illustrates the relationships among food waste, sustainability and hunger.
"Taking steps to reduce food waste is the simplest way to have a positive impact on the amount of hungry people in the world, the impacts of climate change and the hemorrhaging of funds from your household," Bloom says.
During his stay, Bloom will speak at two free events open to the public; an informal community potluck at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Drekker Brewing Company, 630 1st Ave N, Suite 6, Fargo. The event is hosted by Ugly Food of the North, a local food sustainability, grassroots organization.
The second event is "What a Waste: The Impact and Opportunity of Wasted Food", which will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Knutson Campus Center in Moorhead.
"During Bloom's stay, he will tour the Fargo-Moorhead area including stops to local landfills and Concordia's campus with our dining services and some of other campus sustainability groups," says Meredith Wagner, an assistant professor and dietetic internship director at Concordia.
Bloom will also meet with Craft and several classes that worked on "Taste Not Waste," an interdisciplinary program documenting plate waste in Anderson Commons.
It's still food, even if you don't eat it.
The current "Taste Not Waste" initiative started a couple of years of ago when Joan L. Kopperud, from the English department partnered with assistant professor Linda James of the Nutrition and Dietetics department; together, they created a food waste field research project.
Kopperud's first-year writing course was paired with James' "Food in the World" inquiry course.
"Any kind of waste-audit is beneficial because it shows each of us that we just might waste a small amount but when it is thrown together, it becomes a larger issue," Bloom says.
Plate waste — the food left on the plate after it is discarded — is a measurement tool used to better understand food loss and eating habits. Concordia with the help of its dietetic interns have collected data to document its plate waste since 1999.
With the "Taste Not Waste" initiative, students and faculty hope to further record and disseminate information both on and off campus.
"My students collected data and the dietetic interns did all of the data analysis," Kopperud says. "Then, the dietetic interns brought a PowerPoint back to the classroom to present the findings from the data collected."
Plate waste is slowly increasing despite an initial reduction when Concordia went trayless in 2009 as reported in the October 2016 results.
On average, 9,870 pounds of edible food is thrown out as plate waste every month at Anderson Commons—more than 300 pounds per day.
Consumer plate waste from Anderson Commons goes into a garbage disposal that eventually ends up in a water treatment facility. The amount of plate waste at Anderson Commons over a two-day period could feed an additional 237 students three meals a day.
After seeing the results, both the students and Dr. Kopperud were shocked.
"The students said 'you have to do this again,' and 'other students need to know this'," Kopperud says.
Some students commit to changing the culture of food waste by signing a "Taste Not Waste" pledge, promising to be mindful of their own consumption habits.
"On college campuses, most of the waste is happening, because you have an all-you-can-eat set up. There is no disincentive from taking too much food," Bloom says. "The psychology of wastefulness really comes into play here: 'I'm going to take as much as I want and I'm not worried about how much I eat'."
To "taste not waste" students use Ecotensils, the eco-efficient tasting utensils available at food stations in Anderson Commons, to sample foods before taking a full serving.
Concordia's dining services is active with back-of-the house initiatives to combat food waste like the pulper in its kitchen; the composter compresses food waste and adds water, so it takes up less space in a landfill and decomposes more quickly. Dining services, however, cannot control the amount of food students put on their plate.
"Something we have to clarify for people it's not about cleaning your plate. We are not pushing
eating food; it's about being mindful and promoting mindful practices," Kopperud says.
If You Go
What: "What a Waste: The Impact and Opportunity of Wasted Food" with Jonathan Bloom
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22
Where: Centrum, Knutson Campus Center
Info: The lecture is free and open to the public.