By Madison Otten
This article is part four in our five-part Hunger Block.
When Kristina Kahl came to Front Range Community College, she joined forces with Kelli Cole and April Lewandowski to help organize the Hunger Banquet. The three agreed that it would be good to expand upon the banquet and create a new event that focused on a point of food insecurity that many don’t really consider. That issue, which Kahl’s class studied, is wasted food, and it’s an issue that hits closer to home than most people realize.
When we talk about hunger and food insecurity, we tend to only focus on one one half of the issue: having too few support and relief options for those struggling with finding one or more meals day to day. Most people don’t really consider what happens to unsold food in restaurants, supermarkets or farms. The truth is Americans waste about 40 percent of our food on average. That’s about 1.3 billion tons of food going in the trash instead of being used to help others.
It’s hard to wrap your head around this fact when one in three college students are struggling to find enough food to eat. Restaurants, farms, individuals, hospitals and supermarkets are all huge contributors to food waste in the U.S., and the numbers only continue to grow.
Some institutions, however, are attempting to remedy this issue and are taking steps to try and limit and account for their waste. However, it’s not enough if nobody is monitoring the work or keeping them in check. That’s where student and individual involvement comes into play.
As with the other hunger events, Kahl’s students investigated the issue and created the content used in the Wasted Food event. While researching and preparing, Kahl said, the hands-on approach changed them.
“Knowing that they stepped out of their comfort zones and tried it, that’s the point of education, to get us to go outside our comfort zone and to go and try something different and learn about something different, and maybe you take that on in life and maybe you don’t, but at least you tried that experience,” said Kahl.
In researching the issues and coming up with solutions, Khal’s class gained a better understanding of their communities and how their own actions influence the issue. She firmly believes that the food-based events are a force for good.
“I believe that, when students are involved in these types of things, it does a few things,” Kahl said. “It helps the students with their self-esteem, connecting with other students and their learning about the different issues, and the goal is to ask, ‘what can we do to incite change when it comes to food insecurity and food waste?’”
Kahl saw the opportunity for her sociology students to understand the relationship between how what we, as individuals, are eating, what are the obstacles in our way to secure food, connecting it to institutions and industries and how the industries play into the food waste issue.
The Hunger Banquet and Wasted Food both focused on food insecurity, but each took separate approaches to it to help the associated classes see the issues as separate obstacles, rather than one imposing and untameable problem.
“The Hunger Banquet is looking at college kids and their experiences with hunger and food insecurity,” said Kahl. “The follow up to that is a question: is it because we don’t have enough food in our society? The answer is no, it isn’t. It has to do with how we’re wasting food or what we’re doing with this food or this overproduction of food and how its getting lost in the process.”
Kahl believes that Wasted Food helped showcase active learning for the presenters and attendees. Active learning, by her account, is learning in the moment with materials and experiences beyond the textbook and classroom confines. By having students gain real world knowledge, it helps them understand the needs and problems of their communities, but more importantly, how to help solve said issues.