Resolving food insecurity in the United States is an issue I feel strongly about and is a career path I hope to pursue after graduation. I chose to study botany at CSUF with the intent to research methods to increase the affordability, sustainability, and accessibility of whole, unprocessed foods, although after my experience with FoodSharing Copenhagen, I found myself wondering if food insecurity was not so much an issue of inadequate food production, but an issue of poor food management and distribution.
From the small promo video shown in our classroom for FoodSharing Copenhagen to the CNN segment of “The Danish recipe to cut food waste,” one third of all the food produced globally is either lost or wasted, based on a publishing from the United Nations in 2011. Not only is food waste a huge economical and environmental problem, but is almost a ridiculously scenario to even perpetuate when considering the vast millions of people worldwide who spend days and nights literally starving—sometimes to death. There are few things that are absolutely essential to human survival, and with food as one of them, it is quite disheartening to know that so much of the world’s production is going to waste.
I did not expect FoodSharing Copenhagen—a non-profit organization which distributes free food from grocery stores to people that would have otherwise been discarded—to be as large as it was. I wish I took photos of the sheer amount of food from our first week of volunteering. As I passed food along our human chain from the vans to the tables, I kept asking myself, “This really was going to be thrown away?” to the hundreds of pounds of edible food. I realized then that much of the world’s and the United State’s issues of food insecurity was indeed far from a productivity problem.
I was surprised by how casual and relaxed the full-time volunteers were, emanating a “youthful, carefree, hippy vibe.” I was also surprised by how mixed the backgrounds of the volunteers were. Most were young people either traveling, interning, or visiting friends over the summer and lived in completely different countries—very few permanently lived in Denmark. In a way, they were visitors like us, so I did not feel like an outsider amongst the volunteers or the diverse backgrounds of the attendees.
As basic as it is, the most satisfying part of my service-learning experience was seeing all that previously dumpster-bound food going to new homes where they would feed hungry people. There is a belief in the United States that free meals/food should exclusively be given to the needy, but I was happy to see zero judgement towards neediness at FoodSharing. The organization’s mission was to simply prevent perfectly good food from going to waste. A disappointment or difficult part of the FoodSharing Copenhagen experience would be the lack of organization during the set-up process. I feel that with a little more direction for the volunteers, our time and efforts could have been utilized more efficiently.
After FoodSharing Copenhagen, I have been motivated and inspired to bring a service like this to the United States, or at the very least, to our home campus. I was fortunate to be elected this year as the Treasurer/Secretary for Associated Students Inc. (ASI), and one of the Board’s unanimous goals (a very rare occurrence) is to reduce food insecurity among our students. We were able to implement a pilot food pantry program last academic year but are determined to allocate the space and resources to a more permanent aid for those who are in need. While the United States no doubt has many restrictions in place around food distribution which hampers the development for programs like FoodSharing, I am curious to explore how these rules apply to a campus community, and what ASI and I can do to develop a version of FoodSharing on campus, perhaps by expanding the Titan Bites program or by collaborating with our Titan Student Union’s Food Court. I’ve already added this to my list of 2019-2020 goals not only as a personal passion, interested, and advocacy project, but as an obligation to the needs of the students I serve. Perhaps you’ll see FoodSharing CSUF in the next year or two!