Ohio State Students Reduce Food Waste, Increase Food Security

Last fall, I proposed the idea of a composting project on campus through my Learning Community, SUSTAINS (Students Understanding Sustainability and Taking Action to Improve Nature and Society). As members of SUSTAINS, we must come up with a project to improve sustainability on campus, and I thought composting would be a great place to start. A group of SUSTAINS members, including myself, Sarah Gabel and Sophie Pawlak, worked to implement composting in several dorms on North Campus.

We began working with Dr. Brian Roe of the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (AEDE) to collect research on the success of composting in dorms, specifically how much and what types of compost we were able to collect. Dr. Roe also heads the OSU Food Waste Collaborative (FWC), which is a group of researchers, practitioners, and students working to improve food sustainability. The FWC promotes the reduction and redirection of food waste as an integral part of a healthy and sustainable food system. Dr. Roe and the FWC helped us get our research project started, and we reported back to them after compost collections. Compost bins were placed on every floor of three dorms on North Campus and the compost was collected weekly. We were able to divert just shy of 400 pounds of compost!

I care so much about compost because it is both an environmental issue and a justice issue. Research suggests that 40% of our food is wasted, and this comes not only as an economic loss, but also creates unnecessary food insecurity and other environmental issues. Wasted food could feed hungry mouths, but instead we send this food to landfills that disproportionately pollute different regions. Compost can be used to fertilize crops or on local farms, and it doesn’t release methane emissions as it would in a landfill. I don’t want to see pollution disproportionately affecting some communities, nor do I want to see people go hungry when we produce plenty of food to feed everyone. Wasting food not only makes more people food insecure, but also discards all of the resources that go into food production, such as water, fertilizers, carbon, etc., giving us an even larger carbon footprint. I study all of these things, as an Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability major, and the environmental issue that I am most concerned with is definitely environmental justice.

Compost helps draw attention to our wastefulness, and holds people accountable for the food they choose to throw away. I hope that we can make people more cognizant of their waste, and encourage them to compost food not only for environmental purposes, but also in hopes of changing consumption patterns for a more sustainable society. We need sustainability for people as much as we do for the environment, and my goal through this project is to make people aware of their environmental impacts and improve environmental justice by improving food security.

Sarah Grossman is a student in the Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability program in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University.

Students Sow the Seeds of Food Security at #OhioState

Every person in America is aware of the growing costs of college tuition. It’s a common topic of political, social, and economic discussions. What many people are likely unaware of is exactly how much those costs have grown over time. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition and fees have doubled in the last 30 years[1]. Those figures also do not take into the astronomical increase in textbook costs, up 1,041 percent since 1977 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics[2]. With those massive financial undertakings now being forced upon the shoulders of college students, is it any surprise then that some students are struggling to afford feeding themselves?

When a few roommates and I learned about the growing issue of food insecurity on college campuses we immediately had a couple of big questions: 1) Is this a problem at Ohio State? and 2) If so, is something being done about it?

The answers we found were that, yes, it is an issue at OSU – 15 percent of students self-report low food security –, and there was nothing currently being done about it.

Thus, we created Buckeye Food Alliance in April 2014. We intended to start a food pantry specifically for students in need. Ideally, this would be a more convenient and more beneficial way to help those individuals, rather than having them go to another local food pantry.

Over the next two years; we worked closely with university administrators and faculty to determine the best way to bring this to fruition, sought advice and information from established food banks and pantries in the region, gained non-profit status from the IRS, and became one of many on the growing list of members of the College and University Food Bank Alliance.

All of the time, effort, and hard work has more than been worth it in seeing this project, once just an idea that five college kids had, turn into something real. The BFA food pantry officially opened its doors Wednesday, March 30th. In that short time, it has been immensely rewarding to provide help to those students in need, and even more rewarding to see the immense amount of support that the Ohio State and Columbus communities have given to our organization. In the past two weeks alone, we have received more than $1,000 in monetary and non-perishable food donations.

We look forward to being able to serve students in need for many years to come.

For those in need of BFA’s services: The food pantry is located in Suite 150 of Lincoln Tower and is open 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, as well as Sundays 5-8 p.m.

For those looking to support our organization or to learn more about it, instructions on how to donate and our contact information can be found on our website: www.buckeyefoodalliance.org.

pantryshelves-102612-cp-tif

(Photo courtesy of  northjersey.com)

About the author: Alec Admonius is the treasurer and a co-founder of Buckeye Food Alliance. He is a third-year student majoring in Economics and Strategic Communication in the College of Arts & Sciences at The Ohio State University.

[1] Adjusted for inflation. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76

[2] Not adjusted for inflation. http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/freshman-year/college-textbook-prices-have-risen-812-percent-1978-n399926