Opinion

Q&A with Sam Coggins about the Food Wastage Fighters Society

The Food Wastage Fighters Society aims to raise awareness about food wastage and start dialogues about reducing food waste.

Recently, a group of University of Sydney students and staff, fuelled by a desire to address the issues of food waste at the University of Sydney, established the Food Wastage Fighters Society

SEI encourages students to get informed about the environmental impacts of their food choices and hopes to empower individuals to make a change. Take a moment to get to know all about the Food Wastage Fighters Society and find out how you can join the fight against food waste.

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What is the Food Wastage Fighters Society and what does the society aim to achieve?

Our society is a diverse and inclusive group of anti-food wastage enthusiasts. We became an official society with the University of Sydney Union last year and have a growing membership base of more than 100 students, academics and other members of the Sydney University community. We exist to raise awareness about food wastage and start conversations about how we can go about reducing it.

How did the Food Wastage Fighters Society get started?

Mid-last year, a motley group of passionate students from Sydney University’s Agricultural Society, residential colleges and Food Co-op (plus a couple of academics) sat down and had a chat at the Royal Hotel. We have diverse backgrounds but all share a common determination to combat the obscene amount of food and food packaging that we waste every day. Looking at Australia, Sydneysiders and young people are the worst culprits for wasting food on the consumer end of the supply chain. In view of this, creating a food wastage society at the University of Sydney was a no-brainer and we decided to have a crack.

Why are you passionate about reducing food wastage?

My passion for reducing food wastage stems from being a food security enthusiast. A minute from now, the world will have another 140 mouths to feed. One of the great challenges for humanity is to nourish our surging population with increasingly scarce natural resources and a changing climate. I signed up to a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 2014 to be part of the solution. Sustainably boosting food production remains absolutely crucial. However, what will it achieve if we continue to waste one-third of what we grow?

It is vital to note that food wastage not only wastes the food we already have but also makes it harder to grow more. Wasted food generates almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as global road transport (87%). This is creating harsher and more frequent heat waves, droughts, floods, and other extreme weather events – which make it tougher for farmers to sustain current food production, let alone grow more.

What past and present actions are the Food Wastage Fighters Society taking to address the issue of food waste?

For the last two months, twelve of our members have worked alongside the Environment Protection Authority and WWF-Australia to conduct a food waste audit at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel. The goal of the project is to transition from managing wasted food (e.g. composting) to mitigating food wastage (e.g. reduce serving sizes) and ultimately transfer the findings to Sydney University.

Currently, we are working to get information about reducing food wastage to the University of Sydney community. Next week we are screening ‘Just Eat It’ – an entertaining documentary exploring food wastage by consumers and food retailers. We will be putting on a DIY compost class at the Sydney University community garden next semester. Most excitingly, in mid-September, we are conducting an on-campus food wastage debate between leading academics, activists, food processors and retailers.

The details for all of these events will be posted on our Facebook group. In between these events, we have inclusive social gatherings and support similar movements around Sydney.

How can people get involved in the cause and join the Food Wastage Fighters Society?

We are a growing and diverse society that welcomes anyone from the Sydney University community (not just students).

  • Join our active Facebook group to share and/or access interesting content and upcoming events.
  • Come along to our documentary screening next Thursday (details will be posted on the Facebook group). There will be food that definitely will not be wasted.
  • Contact us at foodwastagefighters@gmail.com

Sam Coggins is an Honours student studying agricultural science at the University of Sydney. He is passionate about food security and is one of the founders and the current president of the USYD Food Wastage Fighters Society. Sam recently completed a semester abroad in Sri Lanka and an internship at the International Rice Research Institute.

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