According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the United States goes uneaten, including 52 percent of all fruits and vegetables and half of all seafood. Meanwhile, the Eastern Illinois Foodbank reports that one in four children in our region struggles with hunger.
Parkland Hospitality Program student Del Jacobs saw direct opportunity to connect the food waste and hunger dots when she enrolled in cooking classes and observed the amount of food ending up in the trash.
“I have been interested in sustainability for several years,” Del says, “and I decided to create a system at Parkland to reduce food waste while helping the hungry in our community.”
- Three times this semester, Hospitality’s baking class will bake goods to supply the food pantry. “The pantry’s clients love the food,” says Del, “and the students have the satisfaction of knowing their baked goods are reducing hunger in the community.”
- Next spring, Horticulture students plan to plant a garden outside the pantry food to supply 30 families with fresh seasonal produce.
- Chartwells agreed to divert vegetable scraps from its waste stream to create compost to enrich the soil in Horticulture’s garden.
In addition, Del is working with the Wesley Food Pantry to raise awareness among Parkland’s student body that the pantry can supplement their food needs.
“Parkland’s Hospitality Club will also focus its efforts on sustainability and community outreach,” says Del.
Student-led initiatives like Del’s show the power of sustainability and systems thinking: waste is often a resource that happens to find itself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Creating connections between people and programs can capture these neglected resources and not only put them to productive use, but also help weave together more resilient and humane communities.
[Thor Peterson is the Sustainability coordinator at Parkland College.]