Kirsty Hessing at the NYC Food Tank Summit: Fighting Food Loss and Food Waste

Food Recovery Network partnered with Food Tank during its NYC Summit: Preventing Food Loss and Food Waste to engage FRN chapters across the country. There were six official watch parties hosted by FRN chapters, and even one in Kenya! FRN chapter leader and Student and Alumni Advisory Board member Kirsty Hessing is a fellow for Food Tank and was able to attend the summit first-hand. Read below to learn about Kirsty’s experience:

 SAAB Member, Kirsty Hessing

SAAB Member, Kirsty Hessing

As the Wagner College Food Recovery Network chapter founding President and Student and Alumni Advisory Board (SAAB) member, my interest in food waste and sustainability issues has allowed me the opportunity to speak at and attend many different conferences and summits, mostly in the company of other college-aged peers. Over the past few weeks, I spent time as a fellow for Food Tank where, as a college student, I was more so the minority. Food Tank mostly engages with professional-level leaders in the food waste and sustainability spheres.

Many of those who attended the Food Tank Summit on September 13, 2017, the first ever in New York City, were professors, entrepreneurs, chefs, press, and other interested people. I only met one other college student during the entire summit. Conversations at the summit centered around education at a young age, the introduction of new technologies and highlighting the work of innovative non-profit organizations in the field. I found myself so proud of the work FRN is doing. Multiple times throughout the conference, FRN was mentioned as a success in reducing food waste. It was wonderful to see both those familiar and new to FRN be so impressed with all the work we have done. Many didn’t realize the bridge that college campuses have between education and student initiative. Attendees and at-home viewers were inspired by the passion college students had in starting this movement themselves.

 Former US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vislack discussing food waste.

Former US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vislack discussing food waste.

The summit was set up similarly to how a TED talk looks like to the online viewer. The event space was small and made you feel as though you were part of the important conversations. Having a live stream with so many moving parts really added a cool dynamic to the whole event. At-home viewers were also emphasized throughout the day, highlighting their social media posts and responding to questions submitted online. Danielle Nierenberg, Food Tank President, directly engaged at-home viewers by speaking to them directly.

My responsibilities as part of the summit included setting up and preparing volunteers the night before. Day of, I worked with the same group of volunteers as a liaison to the Food Tank directors. Many volunteers were chefs or had worked with Food Tank before. Many volunteered because they wanted to see this event first hand. I also worked with Great Performances, the catering team, to make sure they had all they needed throughout the day. My last responsibility was overseeing the compost and recycling bins with the help of Common Ground Compost. Composting, although different from food recovery, is, of course, another critical part of reducing food waste.Their team was so diligent and kind in their work throughout the day and taught me so much about what to do with specific kinds of waste. For example – did you know that because of the plastic lining inside them, Starbucks cups are not recyclable? I was surprised to learn this and is certainly information I will share with others back at Wagner College.

I encourage all FRN members, students, and alumni to follow Food Tank closely and watch their summits online when possible. Make sure to pay attention when Food Tank comes to a city near you; they always need volunteers and sometimes even fellows! The actual event is known to sell out within hours and have a waiting list of well over 1,000 people. However, being a volunteer is a great way to get into the event and share in everything in person. Even on the day of the event, I had the chance to network with many of the speakers and attendees. FRN’s work is a huge part of successfully fighting food waste and I encourage all of you to share our mission with as many people possible.