‘Since 2016, `Iolani School has worked together to create the ultimate #WasteLessFeedMore environment
Nearly three years ago, `Iolani School’s student-run Global Issues Network (GIN) Club did NOT bite off more than it could chew. For the club’s dedication to its mission, Aloha Harvest remains extremely grateful.
GIN decided to take on the problem of food waste in Hawaii and see what `Iolani could do to help. Aided by Sodexo GM Kevin Wada, Sullivan Center Director Allison Blankenship and GIN Director Debbie Millikan, who is also `Iolani’s Sustainability Coordinator, the group has made a significant dent in the school’s waste.
In the last school year, `Iolani donated some 1,100 pounds of excess food to Aloha Harvest. Previously much of it would have gone to Ecofeed, which sends leftovers to pig farmers. The rest would have ended up in the trash.
“I think the best part of our connection with Aloha Harvest is the fact that we were able to learn about the relationship between food waste and food insecurity in Hawaii by realizing that there is an excessive amount of food being wasted every day, yet one in seven residents in Hawaii don’t have enough to eat,” said one GIN club member. “Aloha Harvest became a bridge for `Iolani students and the Global Issues Network Club to learn about this reality, and we began to ask deeper questions about our society and government. I am so grateful for the existence of an organization like Aloha Harvest, which has allowed us to think more critically about the world.”
The students began their mission by breaking down the problem as if they were in a math class. They conducted food audits at the school, measuring the amount of food being wasted.
They found most of the waste came from catered events such as food drives and the annual `Iolani Fair, as opposed to daily meals.
“As an educator, the most important part of this partnership is having students feel empowered to make a difference …,” Millikan says. “The process of asking questions, using science and data to find answers and seeking relevant solutions to a very real problem is greatly empowering.”
After the audit, the students hooked up with Sodexo, their school’s food provider. According to Wada, about once a month he calls on Aloha Harvest to send its refrigerated trucks to the school after a large event. The trucks pick up perfectly good food, such as pasta, rice, salad, noodles, fruit, entrees and desserts, and take it to places that truly need it.
“For us, it doesn’t take that much work at all,” says Wada, who has been at `Iolani 11 years. “We make sure we cool leftovers properly, then I make the call to Aloha Harvest for pick up. Aloha Harvest will coordinate a time for the pickup and we assist in loading their trucks.”
It has become a win-win situation for `Iolani, Aloha Harvest and the people who need food most. It has also become a learning experience.
“For me, personally, I would say that the most important part of this partnership is that both `Iolani School and Aloha Harvest are gaining something,” one GIN club member says. “Not only is `Iolani able to donate food that we otherwise would have thrown away, we have the opportunity to educate students about food waste, hunger, and poverty in our community and break the stigma about food insecurity and waste.
“From Aloha Harvest’s perspective, I think the organization is able to gain more food, but it’s also able to expand awareness about the non-profit’s mission and goals. This partnership has created a symbiotic relationship between two groups that previously were completely unrelated.”