If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after Russia and the US. At the same time, one of every six Americans is hungry. Forty percent of the food grown in the United States is wasted. This just doesn’t add up.
Lowering the ratio of waste
Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce food waste. Since fully 25 percent of food waste comes from us consumers, our opportunity to create change is huge. To top that off, we have a wealth of people, businesses, and organizations in our community who are doing cutting-edge work to reduce food waste and feed more people.
I am honored to collaborate on a groundbreaking project with one of these organizations: the Thurston County Food Bank. Thanks to a waste prevention grant from the Department of Ecology, I am the 2018 Artist in Residence at the new food bank in Lacey working on a project whose focus is “Wasting Less Food as a Solution to Hunger.” The Lacey Food Bank will house a farm stand, a distribution center, and a victory garden to be run by veterans and GruB.
The magic of collaboration
The project will involve over 1000 students and adults, and result in a permanent art installation at the new food bank. The “what” it will be is still being defined. One of the things that thrills me about this project is that it is a collaborative effort from start to finish, including the design of the art installation.
My experience has shown me that the best ideas come out of collaboration and that if I follow a process of bringing people together to discuss the possibilities, something magical will happen. We will come up with something entirely different and MORE than I could have created on my own. Working together with people in our community, many of whom feel the effects of hunger and are among the most vulnerable to climate change, we will explore the reasons behind the waste along with the possibilities to shift away from waste into Plenty. We will use art to empower ourselves, each other, and our greater community to make a stand.
Jumping into solutions
This past March, I kicked off the process with four design workshops, involving 100 students, at Salish Middle School and North Thurston High School. In these workshops, I presented information about the intersection of our consumer food waste culture, our rapidly changing climate, and hunger. Food waste is a big issue, yet these students amazed me in their ability to grasp such a huge problem, feel what they had to feel about it, then jump right into solutions.
From this solution-based place, we explored how art can be used as a catalyst for change. Students then created designs for the art installation. Our primary goal was to show the relationship between wasting less food, reducing hunger in our communities, and lessening the environmental impacts of wasted food.
At the same time, students were asked to explore permanent exterior materials, and ways to incorporate artwork made by 1,000 project participants.
This was no small task! Yet the students rose to the challenge, offering designs that were thoughtful, multi-layered, and creative. Multiple themes emerged; we built upon these in each successive workshop. This is where the real magic happened. The excitement as we discussed and expanded upon certain ideas was palpable. Using these themes, and this energy, I met with a small group of students to narrow in on a final design.
A permanent installation
The concept we are working on incorporates ideas from multiple students, building upon ideas presented in the very first workshop. Once the design is confirmed, I will present Less Waste, More Food workshops to students and adults, primarily in the Lacey area, teaching about food waste and how we can all take action to create change. Each of the 1,000 participants will make art in response to what they learn. These art pieces will be incorporated into the permanent, exterior art installation at the Lacey Food Bank, making something more than any one of us could have done alone.
Thus begins the story. The shape it will take, as yet unknown. The process is Art in Action. The art installation itself will be a testament to our individual and collective power and a beacon of hope for a future we are all creating together.
Carrie Ziegler is an artist, environmental educator, and community engagement specialist living in Olympia, WA.
Visit Carrie’s website and follow her blog at www.CarrieZiegler.com to learn more about Waste Less, More Food, view student designs, and follow the Art in Action.