Improving Corporate Awareness of Food Waste – A UC Berkeley Students Experience!

Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship, & Development (FEED) is a food justice consulting student organization at UC Berkeley. In Fall 2019, we worked with Outside2Inside to generate innovative solutions to food waste on the UC Berkeley campus through a food waste education program. Our food waste education program was created to increase awareness of food waste among UC Berkeley students. We are planning to expand this into a program called Corporate Consciousness, which will provide food waste reduction strategies to corporations in the Bay Area.

At the beginning of the semester, we conducted outreach in the Bay Area, contacting over 25 companies that create food waste. After seeking partnerships, we conducted a thorough research analysis of the primary sources of food waste in corporations and innovative solutions these companies can take to address their food waste. This research informed the content of both our UC Berkeley education programs and our Corporate Consciousness program. In our research, we focused on the financial costs of food waste because we felt that corporates would be most invested in a program that could provide monetary benefits to their business. We found that, on average, a company can generate a financial return of $14 for every $1 spent on food waste reduction strategies in place of land-filling waste. We incorporated powerful information like this into our Corporate Consciousness program in order to show the extent to which food waste reduction strategies can benefit corporations.

While we continued to develop the Corporate Consciousness program, we implemented our food waste education pilot program in a UC Berkeley agricultural ecology class of around 40 students. We collected feedback from the students in order to understand what aspects of the program were more engaging and applicable. We then incorporated this feedback into our programs as we continued to design our future Corporate Consciousness program and UC Berkeley food waste awareness initiatives.

The Corporate Consciousness program aims to educate companies on the food waste that occurs at every stage of the supply chain in their business model and specific strategies that would reduce waste at each of these stages. For example, a corporate whose food waste primarily occurs at the preparation stage can add daily specials to surplus menu items to sell more of the food that would normally go to waste or take steps to incorporate a “nose-to-tail” approach — incorporating typically discarded but still edible parts of the produce such as the peel or stem. We included compelling data on the financial benefits of reducing food waste in a corporate and how pursuing more sustainable food practices in the business can boost corporate responsibility and public visibility within the community.

After we developed the Corporate Consciousness program, we developed a Volunteer Training curriculum that will allow us to bring Corporate Consciousness to scale by recruiting volunteers to effectively carry out the program as we develop partnerships with various corporations. The FEED team especially enjoyed using their creativity to design an effective program that will make a significant impact on the way companies approach food waste. We cultivated skills that we will carry with them into their careers, such as professional networking during the outreach period, effective communication and public speaking during our food waste awareness presentation, and program development at every stage of the project. We loved working with the amazing Outside2Inside team and collaborating with individuals who are as passionate as we are about changing the food system and making a positive impact on the lives of those within our community and beyond.