This week on the blog we’ve got Beth Woodside writing from Clemson University. Read below about her experiences with AYM, RYM, and her plans to make a difference in the world!
“I want to start a nonprofit that takes food that would otherwise be wasted from places like supermarkets, catering organizations, and restaurants and donates this food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries. Phew. That is intimidating to say at 22 years old. It is a daunting and considerable dream. But that’s exactly what it is: my dream.
Starting a nonprofit was the first thing to go on my bucket list during the summer of 2010. I was 16 and in 10th grade and had just attended a mission trip with my church youth group to Asheville Youth Mission. Though this wasn’t my first mission trip, it is the one that lit a fire in me. Never before on a mission trip had I formed relationship[s] with those I was serving the way that I did in Asheville that summer. I learned so much about what it truly means to be homeless and the hardships this population faces and I knew then that I had to do something with my life that would ease these hardships.
Fast forward to the summer of 2014. I had just finished my sophomore year at Clemson University as a Food Science Nutrition and Dietetics major and I knew I wanted to spend my summer serving. After talking to the youth director at my church about possible jobs and internships in the area of service, I decided to apply to Asheville Youth Mission as a summer intern. One night in February I got a call from the director of Raleigh Youth Mission, Katherine Blankenship. This was Raleigh’s first summer in action and she wanted me to come be their first intern. I was shocked, elated, and very intimidated, but I hurriedly accepted the offer. If I thought Asheville changed my life as a youth, I was in no way prepared for the change that happened within me during that summer.
I met so many people that summer. From the youth that came to serve with us to the directors of various agencies and the variety of people that needed help. The elderly, the poor, the immigrants, and just generally the forgotten. But what always struck me most was going to a soup kitchen right across the street from the office, Shepherd’s Table. Hunger really struck a nerve with me. Here I was studying nutritious living and food, thinking about starting a nonprofit that taught the average person about healthy eating and there were people who couldn’t even feed themselves, much less make sure it was nutritious. My nonprofit started to take shape a little more. I wanted a nonprofit that would offer nutritious food to the hungry and homeless, specializing in offering nutrition class to populations receiving benefits from The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly referred to as Food Stamps). I stuck with this dream for a good while, sure it was my calling.
My Senior year started in August of 2015 and I started looking at what I wanted to do after college. During this process, I was introduced to the atrocious concept of food waste. Wasted food wasn’t new to me; I worked in a catering operation and anything we made that wasn’t eaten was just thrown away. It bothered me, knowing about the hungry that were out there and would love the pans and pans of delicious food that we were just throwing away, but I just accepted it as part of the job and moved on. A professor learned about my interest in the hungry and helping people and gave me an article to read about food waste. What I read there disgusted me: 40% of food, worth $1.65 billion, is wasted in the United States every year. If we could reduce this by 15%, we could feed 25 million Americans. This statistic haunted me. I thought about it constantly and told people about it whenever I got the chance. It took a couple months for me to realize that I had found my passion and my calling. I needed to feed people with the food that was already available. I needed to help those people in Raleigh and Asheville that were living in cities that have plenty of food to feed them, but decided to throw it away instead. I needed to help people all over the United States that live in a country with a surplus of food that goes in the trash.
It has been a process getting to where I am with this dream. Asheville started the fire, Raleigh fanned the fire, and knowledge made the fire explode out of me into the real world. But I can confidently say that because of my experiences with AYM and RYM, I have found my passion and calling in life, I have found my niche, I have found my way to change the world. I’m 22 years old and I want to start a nonprofit that takes food that would otherwise be wasted and donates it to those in need.”
For more information on food waste in the US and some everyday suggestions on minimizing your food waste, read this article Beth wrote for her internship at Clemson. We’ve used it to create a free resource for you to talk with your youth about food waste and create a covenant to change it. Let us know how youth are eliminating food waste in your community by emailing us at [email protected]!