Dana Frasz was first introduced to widespread endemic poverty while volunteering in Southeast Asia more than a decade ago. The malnourishment she encountered, especially among children, left a deeper impression on her than the beautiful landscape.
Returning home to Maine, and while attending college at both the Rochester Institute of Technology and Sarah Lawrence College, Frasz found herself acutely aware of the tremendous variety and quantity of food everywhere she went – and yet, much of it was being thrown away.
“Witnessing tray after tray of perfectly good food being dumped down the garbage disposal in my college dining hall is what brought me to want to learn and act on the issue on a larger level,” she says.
There was no lack of work to be done. The average American household tosses a quarter of the food it brings home. Retailers throw out bruised or misshapen produce and day-old baked goods. Catering companies are left with trays of untouched gourmet cuisine.
Those discards add up. The United Nations estimates that one-third of all food worldwide is wasted. In the U.S. alone, over 33 million tons of it was sent to landfills in 2010 -- enough to fill the Rose Bowl stadium every day for a year.
The environmental impacts of this wasted food are vast. Only 3 percent of food scraps in the U.S. are converted to compost. The rest go to the dump, where they rot and release methane, a greenhouse gas that second only to carbon dioxide as a contributor to climate disruption.
If global food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas polluter in the world, behind only China and the United States – and that’s not counting the greenhouse gases that were created during the production of all that uneaten food.
But Frasz, along with a growing number of individuals, nonprofits, and religious organizations have set out to stop this waste. They are gleaners, repurposing the unwanted food to feed hungry people, and fighting climate change at the same time.