Drs. PingSun Leung and Matthew Loke point out
the rising trend of food waste in Hawai‘i.
Food waste—and what to do about it—is big news.
Research by ag economists Matthew Loke and PingSun Leung, in the department of
Natural Resources and Environmental Management, has shown that Hawai‘i
residents waste a quarter of all food in the state—356 pounds per
person—totaling 522.8 million pounds and more than $1 billion a year! While this
is less waste, in terms of quantity, than in other states, the monetary value
is greater because of high food costs here.
The numbers are all the more
disturbing in light of the continuing focus on increasing food sustainability
and local production: a state that imports up to 90% of its food cannot afford
to bring it to the Islands only to throw it away. But as Dr. Loke, who’s also
an administrator in the Department of Agriculture, and Dr. Leung explain, while
it’s important to remember that some waste is inevitable, knowing how and where
it occurs is crucial to figuring out how to lessen it.
Joy Nagahiro-Twu and Heather
Fucini pack and label food for the IHS.
(photo: UH System Media Production)
Cutting down on food waste is
the focus of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), which offers prepared but unused
food to those less fortunate in the community. Dietetics students Victoria Duplechain,
Joy Nagahiro-Twu, Heather Fucini, and Mariah Martin led the launch of the UH Mānoa
chapter of the FRN, partnering with Sodexo’s UH Mānoa general manager—and CTAHR
alumna—Donna Ojiri. They began by giving meals every Friday to the Institute
for Human Services (IHS), which then distributes the food to homeless shelters
on O‘ahu. They’ve already given over half a ton of food since the program
started seven months ago!
Recent media coverage of the
initiative inspired more students to get involved with the food recovery—and
more organizations to request UH’s unsold food. The group has burgeoned from
the original five to more than thirty, allowing the students to collect food
multiple times a week, and plans are underway to distribute it to the Youth
Outreach drop-in center and the Next Step shelter as well as IHS.
While only food that has been prepared but not
sold can be donated for human consumption, Ms. Ojiri explains that UH food
that’s already been served and discarded also gets repurposed—it’s distributed
to Island pig farms. Win-win!