Turning Food Waste Into a Window of Opportunity
Kent State biology student rescues excess food for educational feast
Imagine planning a dinner party for 500 of your closest friends and not knowing what you will serve until almost the last minute. It might sound stressful, but for Erin Shattuck it is a privilege. Ms. Shattuck is passionate about using every last morsel of food to prevent waste. She is even more passionate about telling and teaching others to do the same.
On April 15, Ms. Shattuck will host the first Kent State University Feed the 500, an educational awareness feast designed to draw attention to the insurmountable, edible food that gets wasted on a daily basis.
“What’s so crazy to me about food waste is you have this paradox with two issues,” she said. “You have the food that gets wasted, which is the number one item in landfills, and then, you have one in four Americans who are hungry. That blows my mind. To me, these issues should be solvable. Where is the missing gap and why is this happening?”
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one third of our food in the world gets wasted, which amounts to approximately $680 billion in industrialized countries. The top wasted foods? Fruits and vegetables.
To counteract the waste, Ms. Shattuck and the Feed the 500 Planning Committee have proactively reached out to local restaurants, grocers and businesses to donate leftover food that is still good but is typically discarded at the end of the day.
The team will start gathering the food prior to Feed the 500, prep it and partner with Campus Kitchen, a Kent State student nonprofit organization that also takes food that would otherwise be wasted to create meals for those in need.
“We are getting the food a few days before, and because it’s excess food, we don’t know what we’re getting until we get it,” Ms. Shattuck said. “So, we have no idea what this menu is going to be and we are going to compile it into a meal before we serve it on April 15.”
Feed the 500 is free to everyone and will take place on Risman Plaza from 1-5 p.m. In addition to eating, students will also have the opportunity to take part in educational events to learn more about food waste and get involved in activities that turn discarded food into beauty products.
The purpose of Feed the 500 is to physically show students on campus how many people can be fed from food that would have ended up in the dumpster from just a couple of businesses. To make the event a success, Ms. Shattuck credits the contributions of her team members Anna Smith, Samm Stroupe, Sara Lawler and Nick Schmucker for giving up every Friday evening to have meetings that lasted up to three hours long.
"There's no way I could have put this on without them," she said.
Ms. Shattuck draws her inspiration from two separate study abroad trips. The first took her to the Netherlands where she took classes in sustainable development. For her second trip, Ms. Shattuck studied in Australia where she rescued food that went into an alternative market on campus there.
As a senior majoring in biology in Kent State’s College of Arts and Sciences, Ms. Shattuck plans to take the sustainability practices that she holds so dear to her heart and bring them to her future career. She hopes Feed the 500 will continue after she graduates so that students can learn more and waste less.
“It seems like this is something that everyone can do,” she said. “We have a say in how to reduce food waste, what to buy and best ways to use it before it ends up in the garbage.”