An estimated one-third of food produced in the world each year goes to waste, according to a 2013 United Nations special report, causing economic, energy and environmental losses of more than $750 billion annually.
That startling statistic caught the attention of three communication students at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), all of whom are members of the school’s award-winning MediaLab program. Intrigued, the trio began asking questions, conducting research and investigating the problem.
Now, after more than a year of research, travel, interviews and production, the result is a new documentary film titled “Waste Not: Breaking Down the Food Equation,” which premieres in Tacoma on Saturday, Nov. 8.
“Waste Not” explores the complexities associated with how and why food is wasted, as well as the many ramifications of wasted food.
“Through making this film, I’ve had a plethora of experiences that have shaped the way I think about food waste and food in my own life,” said Taylor Lunka, a senior communication major who served as a senior producer. “I hope people who see the film realize it’s something we can all do something about, and it’s an issue that deserves our attention.”
In addition to Lunka, senior communication students Amanda Brasgalla and Olivia Ash spent more than a year traveling across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, conducting nearly 100 interviews with people involved in various aspects of the food system, including several food recovery organizations.
“Food waste is an issue that’s becoming widespread across the world, and it’s something everyone can connect to,” Brasgalla said. “Food recovery organizations have been cropping up all over the world and many government organizations are making the elimination of food waste a top priority in the next five years.”
MediaLab is an award-winning program housed within the Center for Media Studies in PLU’s School of Arts and Communication. In its eight years of existence, MediaLab has received multiple recognitions for its documentary films, including one Emmy award, five Emmy nominations, three National Broadcasting Society Awards and a host of other regional, national and international honors.
“Waste Not” is the latest in a series of MediaLab films that have tackled big, highly topical issues such as religion, water, oil and immigration. All of those productions have been supported by PLU’s Wang Center for Global Education and other on- and off-campus organizations such as the School of Arts and Communication, Korean Women’s Association and others.
In addition to gaining valuable experiences in filmmaking, the “Waste Not” team also learned a great deal about agriculture, economics, cultural differences and related issues while making the film.
PLU communication professor Robert Marshall Wells, Ph.D., MediaLab’s co-founder and faculty advisor, served as executive producer on “Waste Not.” Wells said the filmmakers’ primary goals are to provoke thought.
“I’m hoping that someone who attends this film will come away informed, enlightened or perhaps even shocked,” Wells said. “Minor adjustments in behavior and perspective can go a long way toward solving major problems.”
The documentary, 30 minutes in length, premieres at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8 at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts’ Theatre on the Square, located between 9th and 11th Streets on Broadway in downtown Tacoma.