05-21-19 CLA: Introduction: Food Waste Series

CLA: Introduction: Food Waste Series

Virginia Till, CALP Class 14 member

Greetings CLA readers. I’m Virginia Till and I am a current member of the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP) Class 14 and also work at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 8 office in Denver, CO. I work on the voluntary prevention and reduction of materials going to landfills for Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

I became interested in learning more about the connection of consumers to agricultural education when I learned the USDA Farm to School Census polled schools and found that when kids know more about where their food comes from, they waste less food. This could mean meeting a farmer or rancher, operating a school garden, reading about agricultural production, etc. I care about wasted food because 30-50% of food produced in the US is thrown away – accounting for the largest portion of material in landfills at 22%. This happens while less than 2% of the US population is engaged in direct on-farm employment. Clearly, I don’t need to tell you that there’s a need to communicate effectively with consumers about how food gets to their plates.

Before one can teach, one must learn. I have attended events hosts by CSU and the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture to educate teachers and students, toured farms in ND and CO, and actively sought out anyone who would help me learn about food production and distribution in the United States. I then shared these lessons with hunger relief associations, school districts, food system advocates, and environmental organizations through my food waste reduction education/outreach. These experiences have inspired me to share positive stories about what Colorado agriculturalists do every day to be stewards of the land. I want to develop articles for both my CALP Class Project and for work-related outreach. My goal is to help the public reduce food waste by helping them better appreciate, and understand, the effort, expertise, love, and resources Colorado farm families put into the food we eat every day.

Over the next few months you will see a series of articles in the CLA newsletter talking about reducing food in our landfills referencing the Food Recovery Hierarchy. This is a common graphic used by food management advocates listing options for keeping food out of landfills. Food recovery and reducing food waste are issues gaining national momentum, including elements in the 2018 Farm Bill.

I invite you to share stories you think need to be told to better connect consumers to the journey of their food. Please feel free to reach out to me directly and share my information with anyone interested in providing story ideas at till.virginia@epa.gov. Thank you CLA for this opportunity.

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