Pacific Lutheran University’s MediaLab will host an on-campus premiere of its latest documentary film, “Waste Not: Breaking Down the Food Equation,” on Thursday, April 23, at 6 p.m. in the Studio Theater.
MediaLab was established in 2006 as an experimental program that initially focused on print journalism. But the scope of the organization’s work has expanded over the years to include videography, photography, public relations and other media content and services.
MediaLab has received numerous awards since its inception, including an Emmy Award, five National Broadcasting Society Awards, and many other honors. MediaLab is one of several programs within the Center for Media Studies at PLU, part of the University’s School of Arts + Communication.
Three MediaLab students, all Communication majors, spent more than a year exploring the topic of food waste and its many implications.
“Food waste is really an issue that is overlooked in society,” said co-producer Amanda Brasgalla ’15.
Brasgalla, along with senior co-producer Taylor Lunka ’15 and chief videographer Olivia Ash ’15, traveled across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to conduct interviews and field research. They spoke with everyday citizens, farmers, activists and government officials to present an extensive view of food waste.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted, which equates to more than 20 pounds of wasted food per person, per month.
“Food is thrown away at all levels of the chain, from the farm all the way to the consumer. What’s really tragic is that some of the food is completely edible,” Brasgalla said. “Many times food is discarded because it doesn’t look right, or is too small or large. This idea of cosmetic perfection leads to tons of food being thrown out and wasted.”
In 2013, the nationwide non-profit food bank network Feeding America reported that 49.1 million Americans live in food insecure households.
“That means a significant amount of our population goes hungry, even though we are discarding tons and tons of food,” Brasgalla said of this disconnect. “There needs to be a way we can distribute this food that would otherwise go to waste, and help other people.”
Gleaning, a centuries-old method of collecting excess produce after harvest, is one example of how food can be distributed and donated to those in need. Local organizations such as Harvest Pierce County conduct gleaning operations aimed at reducing food waste and building community.
Since 2009, Harvest Pierce County’s Gleaning Project has harvested more than 300,000 pounds of food to help the community.
In addition to gleaning, food recovery organizations across the country, such as Lovin’ Spoonfuls, a non-profit food rescue operation in Boston, also work to reduce food waste.
During their research, Brasgalla and Lunka accompanied a Lovin’ Spoonfuls driver on one of her daily food pickups.
“We visited large-scale grocery stores around Boston,” Lunka said, “and were blown away at how much food they would donate.”
In less than three hours, food donations to Lovin’ Spoonfuls filled a refrigerator truck 5 feet wide and 7 feet high.
“Lovin’ Spoonfuls has several trucks that pick up daily -- and that was only one truck,” Brasgalla said. “It was unbelievable to see. But seeing an organization like Lovin’ Spoonfuls making a difference was amazing.”
The hard work invested by Brasgalla, Lunka and Ash has not gone unnoticed. “Waste Not” has received several national and international recognitions, including a 2015 First-Place nomination from the National Broadcasting Society, a national second-place finish in the Broadcast Education Association’s Festival of Arts Competition, and a Rising Star Award from the 2015 Canada International Film Festival.
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