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NC State Net Impact Chapter hosts Food Waste and Hunger Forum

By: Grace Taylor and Anna Rzewnicki, Office of Communications and Annabelle Fernandez, BSC Associate

On Thursday, February 25th, Net Impact NC State convened the Food Waste and Hunger Forum at Talley Student Union. Liz Bowen, Sustainability Program Coordinator and a key organizer of the event, stated that the goal of the Forum was “to start a conversation on the key issues which link Hunger and Food Waste.” By utilizing an “un-conference format”, Bowen asked the expert panelists to share brief remarks, and then pose challenging questions for the audience to discuss. “The experts were able to connect with passionate and informed students around ideas and solutions.”

The format required each panelist to deliver a five-minute presentation including background information and statistics, plus insight into their organization or non-profit initiative. Forum panelists included Shraddha Rathod from FreshSpire startup, Don Eli from Interfaith Food Shuttle, Morgan Murdock from FoodRecovery Network, Erin White from Community Food Lab, Maggie Kane from A Place at the Table and Lisa Johnson from NC State’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems.

Immediately after their presentation, the expert panelists presented a question for the audience to discuss and provide solutions. Among the questions posed by panelists were:
– Whose attitudes towards ugly vegetables need to change first – consumers, produce buyers/distributors, growers, or policymakers?
– Is it a problem that big producers such as Walmart and Trader Joes that provide the most donations, also create too much food waste?
– How can NC State partner with a community café [A place at the Table] to make it happen?

With each panelist’s presentation, the room filled with energized discussions, and then the audience shared their findings. Audience members provided inventive solutions, such as reaching out to local high schools for volunteers and partnering with outside organizations with similar values.

FreshSpire Entrepreneur and NC State student, Shraddha Rathod, shared her overall excitement after participating as an expert panelist for the Forum. “I liked how [the event] was casual and people felt comfortable talking about their ideas and these important issues. It gave me the opportunity to talk about my ideas and connect with other panelists. There was a good span of perspectives on the [food waste] topic,” Rathod said.

Rathod’s startup business, FreshSpire is a mobile notification system that connects grocers with consumers. The app relays information about daily markdowns to help combat food waste and accessibility problems within the community. “It was important to connect with the other panelists and see how we can help each other,” she said.

Both Bowen and Rathod hope that the Forum will continue to expand in the future. Rathod stated, “NC State can gain more awareness of these issues and take bigger steps to combat them within our own university. I think it’s an event that we can continue annually. We can go bigger.”

Note: Thanks to efforts from key MBA students from NC State’s Poole College of Management, the university’s efforts for food awareness are about to expand. Interested students, faculty, staff and community members take note and mark your calendars! Food Con, a collaborative, rotating conference first held at UNC in 2014 then Duke University in 2015, will be hosted this year by Net Impact NC State on November 11th, 2016. A student-run event, this year’s theme will be The Business of Sustainable Food. Current sponsors for this year’s Food Con include the BSC and CEFS. Co-chairs Shannon O’Shea and Graham Givens are currently seeking speakers and additional sponsorship as well as volunteers to assist with event planning, marketing, and communications. For information, please contact Website: