Engineering News Winter 2015
Feeding a Hunger for Sustainability
Makena Wong '17 has always had a passion for advancing sustainability. As a seventh grader she was bothered by the paper being wasted when teachers tore down their bulletin boards, so she started a campus recycling program that continues to this day. Last year, as a freshman, Wong enrolled in SLURP, SCU’s Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Project, where students are challenged to help solve a campus problem related to sustainability.
"I had heard a statistic from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization that nearly one third of the world’s food production is never consumed. That really bothered me; it’s an incredible percentage. Knowing that there is a huge amount of food on campus that is over-produced for Dining Services and catered events (a practice that is just part of doing business), I began researching food recovery options."
In May of 2014, she and fellow Bronco Paloma Sisneros-Lobato launched an SCU chapter of the Food Recovery Network, a national organization that has college students fighting food waste and feeding the hungry in their own communities. "I was worried that we might meet with some resistance from Dining Services, but they were immediately on board and everyone has been really supportive," Wong said.
Here’s how it works: Each week, Dining Services packages and stores unused food for Monday and Thursday pick-ups by two student volunteers who have been trained by Wong on food safety procedures. The students then deliver the food to Martha’s Kitchen, a local organization that not only feeds the hungry at their door twice a week but also supplies food to more than 35 other nonprofit organizations in Santa Clara County. "Donated food cannot be in the fridge more than five days," said Wong, "so partnering with Martha’s Kitchen is a great solution for ensuring that our food doesn't go to waste. It takes the student volunteers about an hour, so it's not a huge commitment, but it makes a big impact. From May through November we donated over 3,500 pounds of food! It's amazing to think all that food would have been thrown out. It's very good to know it's being used.
"Sustainability has always been in my brain," she continued, "but I never thought of it as a career until I started taking classes at Santa Clara. After my freshman year, I switched majors from economics to civil engineering, and I want to specialize in environmental engineering. Having the technical knowledge and skills will open a lot of opportunities for me."