We sat down with Dana Williamson, founder and President of Waste Less Solutions, to learn more about this program and how youth can get involved. Waste Less Solutions is a Utah nonprofit dedicated to the education, prevention and diversion of food waste.
What is Waste Less Solutions?
Our mission is to educate, prevent and divert food waste in Utah. Our organization was founded out of a desire to fix a problem that was going unaddressed. In Utah approximately 600,000 tons of food goes to waste every year, and yet there are also approximately 400,000 people who go hungry in Utah every year. Additionally, food that rots in the landfill emits methane gas into the environment which is a leading cause of climate change. Remarkably, reducing our food waste is one of the top 5 solutions to reversing greenhouse gases. We operate a food rescue program to provide a system for rescuing that surplus food from caterers, cafeterias, grocers, food businesses, restaurants, farmers markets and backyard gardens and distributing it to people in need.
How do you partner with schools, classrooms, students?
We partner with classes and students to teach them the impacts of food waste on our environment and share solutions to the problem. We help them lead food waste audits in their cafeteria to obtain facts as to what is being wasted and how much, to talk to the school administration to encourage share tables as well as food rescue from the cafeterias of excess food. Additionally, we work with individual students who might have interest in working with us more, by speaking on our behalf to other students, to helping lead canvassing of neighborhoods to share information about our gardenshare program, helping by manning tabling events and to help get our message out on social media.
Our purpose is to change people’s behaviors at a young age, making them aware early on the need to waste less food, teaching them skills to do that as well as having a population of students who can assess the waste at their schools and promote change from within.
Can you give an example or share a story of how you’ve partnered with students or classrooms or teachers?
We partnered with a civic learning class at West High in Spring 2022 . Our Founder and President attended their class to share what Waste Less Solutions is doing in the community as well as to provide support, research, facts, industry knowledge and documentation to help their project. Our President also attended a follow up meeting and toured the cafeteria with the students to hear about their food waste audit and to provide input on the progress of their report, answer any questions, provide more material and show encouragement as the students prepared to present their findings and their ask to their principal.
How can educators partner with you now or in the near future?
Each term we have the capacity to partner with 2-3 schools and offer support by meeting with the students, answering their questions, sharing facts and information from our program as well as others around the world. When educators find their knowledge is limited on this subject, we can step in and help share knowledge. We let the students take the lead as each group might have a slightly different focus, and we fully support that. We love supporting the growth mindset and empowering kids to speak up and make a difference. We also have students at the undergraduate and graduate level at local universities that are happy to help and be available to mentor students that might want to take the project further.
Anything else you want to share?
We are also available to host cooking demonstrations or cooking classes on reducing food waste at home if your students are interested in that.