The Average College Student and Food Security

The Average College Student and Food Security

6/5/17

In light of the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, many of us are looking for ways to #ActOnClimate and do our part for the planet. Here’s one idea from Bennett Blitz, a student at the University of Maryland. 

Today was a day like any other. I woke up, turned on my Samsung Galaxy S6 to check the weather, and then left the comfort of my eight-story dorm to eat at the campus diner. Like every other morning this semester, I was welcomed with a neatly arranged display of sausage, eggs, pancakes, waffles, bagels, orange juice, soda machines – you name it! No matter how much I ate, there was always more food, and I’m sure plenty of other students felt same way.

With diners, restaurants and grocery stores at our disposal, it’s difficult to imagine our lives without these luxuries. So let’s pretend we are farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa – in Malawi, to be specific. The dry season has come to an end, and we have survived our seventh drought this decade. We are finally able to grow enough food to support our families. Several months later, a massive flood strikes. We lose our homes, our roads, and our farms, and yet again, we have no food to sell at the market and feed our children with.

Food security and climate threats are huge issues, and not only in Malawi. As global temperatures rise, farmland is threatened by desertification, flooding, and other natural disasters. It’s estimated that by 2050, 50 million people could be at risk of undernourishment because of climate change 1 – that’s almost twice the population of Texas!

Of course, these 50 million people will be living in developing countries like Malawi, not well-to-do Texas. So what can average American college students like you and I do about food insecurity on the other side of the planet? Of course traveling to Africa would be the most direct way of helping farmers in need. Planting trees would reduce the risk of droughts, and building flood-resistant homes and roads would help mitigate flood damage.

Ah, but your schedule is a bit too busy to be spending months in Africa. Good news! There are other ways of promoting food security.

Let’s start with a big one: reduce waste! Hungry? Try not to load up your dining hall plate all at once – eat slower and take multiple trips to get food. Did you accidentally buy a Footlong at Subway when all you could eat is a 6-inch? Take your leftovers with you! Globally, one-third of all produced food is wasted, 2 and it’s the small actions that count. Suppose every college student in the U.S. wasted one less pound of food each week – that adds up to 20.5 million less pounds of food waste every seven days! 3 Sure, this won’t save any lives today, but think about how many lives would be improved by 2050 when 35 billion fewer pounds of food have been thrown in the garbage and converted to carbon dioxide.

As college students, simply knowing what’s at stake is the most important. This way we can incorporate what we know about food security and global sustainability in our classwork, research, careers, and especially our daily routines.

-Bennett Blitz is a first-year computer engineering major at the University of Maryland, College Park. He recently completed a course called Hot, Hungry and Crowded in which he examined global sustainability issues such as climate change, food security, and population growth

 

1 “The Sate of Food and Agriculture 2016.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.       Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 2016. Web. 2 May, 2017.

2 “Food Loss and Food Waste.” Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations,  2015. Web. 2 May, 2017.

3 “Fast Facts.” National Center For Education Statistics. 2016. Web. 2 May, 2017.

If you’d like to help to take action in Washington to ensure that we continue to engage in sustainable development that protects communities most vulnerable to climate change, sign our petition now. - CARE Action

 

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