Kana Cummings, ’22
Addressing campus food insecurity and food waste
As the sun begins to set and the bells of Hoover Tower ring in the distance, I set the last tray of lasagna onto a picnic table outside a Row house. Soon after, our first “customers”—grad students from the Graduate School of Education—arrive with Tupperware in hand. They peruse the day’s offerings, eventually settling on a mix of grilled meats, grains, and prepared dishes, and fill their containers to the brim. As we exchange pleasantries, one woman mentions how appreciative of the food she is—without it, she couldn’t make it through the week.
Many of my Sunday afternoons during fall and winter of sophomore year were spent in this manner, helping organize and operate Stanford Food Recovery’s new Row Donation initiative.
Spearheaded by former Stanford Food Recovery co-president Nancy Chang, ’20, the initiative was designed to address two key issues: food waste on the Row and food insecurity within the Stanford student community.
The Row houses, which served daily meals to its 1,600 residents, typically kept leftovers throughout the week but had to discard everything on Sundays. As a result, there was a lot of edible food going to waste.
Conversely, as a Stanford Daily series on affordability revealed, some international graduate students were experiencing serious food insecurity, such as one PhD student who relied on picking produce from campus trees to survive.
Particularly at an institution like Stanford, it is easy to assume that everyone has the means to live a comfortable life. However, this is clearly far from the case. Additionally, dealing with a global challenge like food waste can be incredibly overwhelming, as it isn’t clear where one should even begin to address the problems. For these reasons, one of the things I’ve appreciated most about Stanford Food Recovery is its hyperlocal focus and the ability to see the direct impact of the organization’s efforts.
As an advocate of community-based change, I hope to utilize my remaining time at Stanford to continue working to ensure that the social and environmental impacts of food waste and food insecurity on campus can be mitigated as much as possible.