In the United States, 40% of food goes uneaten. Just so we’re clear, that’s nearly half. Yet one in every six Americans lacks a secure supply of food. Waste is happening at every part of the supply chain: thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables are being left in the fields to rot, blemished produce are being tossed at our supermarkets, restaurants are dumping perfectly good leftovers, and consumers are letting food waste away in their refrigerators. Clearly, we have a problem.
I knew I had to visit Pure Country Pork after learning it was the first sustainable hog operation in the United States to be certified by Food Alliance under its stricter guidelines of no farrowing crates or gestation stalls. Plus, since Bon Appétit committed last year to phasing out all pork raised using gestation crates by 2015, I knew I needed to talk to some experts to better understand the significance of this commitment.
I had a wonderful time in sunny California where I visited Whittier College in honor of Food Day, an annual nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. My visit kicked off with a luncheon with landscape architect Glen Dake. Glen gave a presentation on how to build landscapes that volunteers both love and are capable of managing. The room was full of students from Whittier’s Urban Agriculture Club that were interested in learning techniques to get volunteers engaged with gardening. The presentation covered everything from how to make weeding assignments glamorous, to what plants can survive without much effort.
Students at the University of Redlands spend a week each semester to host fun activities that raise environmental awareness and inspire action on campus. The most recent Green Week coincided with Food Day so Bon Appétit was invited to co-host an event with a coalition of environmental organizations that focused on waste and the food system. Students and staff strung 1,050 disposable to-go boxes around Hunsaker Plaza to show people how much ends up in the landfill every day on campus and the students asked people to pledge to only use to-go boxes when actually on the go.
The idea for the event was conceived when students learned that on average 5,250 disposable to-go boxes end up in the landfill each week and approximately $25,000 is spent on those boxes each semester!
I had believed that social change came from the world of nonprofits. How could do-gooders both stay true to their vision and make money? Didn’t that take grants and volunteers and 501c3 status? It was exciting to see true sustainability at work: a for-profit business model that was also loyal to a socially responsible mission. From then on, I knew I wanted to work for Bon Appétit.