They’re showing the hows and whys of fighting food waste

Food waste rotting in landfills emits methane, a greenhouse gas that makes climate change worse.

But an award-winning group of CFAES students is doing its part to fight the problem, starting at home on the Ohio State campus.

Education and action

Students in the group called Know Food Waste, or KFW, have a two-pronged mission. The first is to educate people about cutting food waste. The second is to plan and demonstrate ways that tackle the issue right on the campus.

“We all believe in the urgent need of sustainable living, and taking actions on a personal level to better utilize precious resources,” co-founder Aishwarya Badiger said of the group, which recently won CFAES’ 2021 Student Organization of the Year Award.

Such actions “can help alleviate food insecurity and climate change, and more importantly, can help meet the increasing demand for food globally,” Badiger said.

She started the group in spring 2019 together with fellow students Katie Williamson and Jeff Caminiti. All three are PhD candidates in the CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology.

Compost drop-off

The group’s efforts, among others, include launching a compost drop-off program in conjunction with Ohio State’s Zero Waste team, funded by a 2020 Ohio State Energy Partners grant.

By paying a modest fee, students, faculty, and staff can take their household food waste to a designated station.

From there, instead of going to a landfill, it’s diverted to be turned into beneficial compost.

Bagel rescue

Another project aims to rescue and upcycle the 400 or so bagels thrown away every week by Ohio State’s campus dining locations. The bagels, while a couple days old, are still safe to eat.

But by teaming up with the student-run Ohio State Food Recovery Network, KFW’s members hope to turn the currently wasted bagels into good to eat, long shelf-life bagel chips.

The plan also calls for the bagels-turned-chips to go full circle at the end, returning to be sold at the dining locations as snacks for hungry Buckeyes.

It’s a possible model for similar efforts at campuses across the country.

“As future leaders in the food and agriculture industry,” Badiger said, “we believe it is our social responsibility to consume and produce food in a conscientious manner.”

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