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Rejected produce nourishes students, conserves resources

Ever wonder where all the “ugly” produce from the supermarkets goes? All those bruised apples, slightly browned lettuce or lumpy oranges? Sadly, most of this perfectly usable produce goes straight to the garbage. This is extremely discouraging, considering how many people don’t have food to eat. However, a group of students at UMBC have decided to take a stand against this and use lemons to make lemonade – quite literally.

UMBC’s Garden club has teamed up with Environmental Task Force and created monthly “food-waste” dinners. Sophomore Samina Musa gathers a group of students on Tuesdays and drives all the way to Mom’s Organic Market in Columbia and collects perfectly edible produce that “looks ugly.” Mom’s Organic has been nice enough to partner with the students of the Garden and have decided to let students take the produce that they would otherwise chuck. This can range from products such as fruits and veggies, to sometimes packaged goods.

The cooking is arguably more fulfilling than eating the food itself because there is lots of conversation, laughter and good vibes all around. This food is then brought back and stored in Harbor Hall until it can be used the next day. On Wednesday, students get together and help cook a healthy and hearty meal as a community and then serve it. Some of the deliciousness on the menu are zucchini noodles, stuffed peppers, seasoned potatoes and stir fry. But who can forget dessert? There’s also cinnamon apple sauce, cobbler and Samina’s famous black bean brownies!

What could be better than a night of friends, good food and education about the environment? When interviewing Valerie Lee, a freshman studying biology here at UMBC, she stated, “The dinners are a great way to meet new friends, with the same interests as you, with good food that otherwise would have been thrown away. The people are always really cool and we’re all passionate about the environment and trying to eliminate America’s humongous food waste problem.”

When talking to UMBC’s very own sustainability coordinator, Tanvi Gadhia, she explained, “In the United States, 40 percent of the food grown is thrown away. About 10 percent of this food is thrown away by grocery stores. A majority of this food is tossed because it is deemed too ‘ugly’ to sell. This is a huge environmental problem as the organic waste in landfills releases methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than CO2. At the same time 1 in 6 Americans go hungry and even when given access to food, do not receive healthy, nutritious meals.” This information can also be found on the event page for the organization.

Environmental Task Force also takes this time to address the various environmental issues and how to fix them on campus while everyone eats; jumpstarting many discussions based on protecting the environment. They have also pushed many environmentally-friendly changes on campus, such as getting compostable utensils on campus, as well as providing comparable bins. It is clear to see the hard work from student organizations can be put into such a great cause.