With food waste, Surrey students make dinner for dozens

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Students at one Surrey school became so passionate about the subject of food waste, they made a meal out of it.

A dinner of soup and apple crisp was served to around 70 people in Grade 5 teacher Amanda Cheung’s classroom on Feb. 20, at the Cloverdale campus of Surrey Christian School.

The meal was a key moment in a class project that began several months ago.

“It started with understanding what food waste was, and it turned into something bigger for us,” Cheung said. “The students learned that we, as a society, waste a lot of food. So we decided to transform food waste into a meal, to also educate people in the community.”

Cheung’s 18 students chopped carrots, celery and chicken to make soup, for a dinner that had three seatings.

“By the end of the night we actually had to turn people away, it got so full,” Cheung said.

“It was all just one way for the students to really hit home that food waste is not just garbage, that you can cut rubbery stuff off and still use it and make a good meal,” she added. “They really want to send the message that hey, we can make this and yes, you’re eating food waste right now.”

To make the meal, the class partnered with Save-On-Foods, which in 2019 surpassed its company-wide goal of cutting its food waste in half by the year 2025 – a goal announced six months previous. The grocery chain has since revised its goal to become a zero-food waste operation within three years, in partnership with FoodMesh, Loop Resource and Food Banks BC.

“Our school has been really passionate about recycling and this year, the students wanted to do something a little different,” Cheung said. “I learned more about food waste and told the students about it, and that’s what started this. They got the ball rolling, and they started policing each other. Like, ‘Hey, don’t throw away that apple, you only took one bite of it.’ Or you know, ‘That bruised banana, you shouldn’t throw it away, it can be made into banana bread, right. It’s still good.’”

Now, the students have a good understanding of what food waste is.

“​At first I thought that food waste was not a problem,” said student Katelynn Galbraith. “But now I know that food waste causes pollution when it is thrown in the landfill and it is a problem because we have so many hungry people that we should give the food to instead of throwing it away.”

Added student Elijah Reddy: “Now I know that it’s perfectly good food that people don’t want to eat because they bought too much. One fact that surprised me is that we waste 25 per cent of the food we buy.”

Cheung said one student told her that changes have been made when the family goes grocery shopping.

“I had a student tell me that she now says to her mom, ‘Let’s just go to the back of the grocery store and get the discounted food that can still be used, stuff that’s still good.’”