Walsh University began a two-day summit on world hunger Friday by focusing on how to make a difference on campus.

NORTH CANTON  Walsh University began a two-day summit on world hunger Friday by focusing on how to make a difference on campus.

Students and higher education leaders convened for the Rockefeller Food Waste Workshop Friday morning. The panel discussion gave students a toolkit on how to address food waste on their campus.

"Summit Squared: One Movement. Exponential Impact" is being held Friday and Saturday at the university. The summit — which will bring together more than 300 students and university leaders from around the world — combines Campus Kitchens Project's fourth annual Food Waste Camp and Hunger Summit and the 12th annual Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit in one gathering. It was preceded Thursday by the PUSH (Presidents United to Solve Hunger) leadership forum.

It's the first year Walsh has hosted this event.

Food Waste

Food loss or waste is food that's produced but never eaten. It happens throughout the food chain, from vegetables left in fields to rot from disease to produce that never makes it to the grocery store to food that expires in a refrigerator or is left uneaten at a restaurant.

Some facts from the workshop about food waste and hunger:

• There's enough food grown or produced in the world to feed everyone, but 30 to 40 percent of the food produced is never eaten.

• The U.S. spends $218 billion every year on food that is produced but never eaten, according to the organization ReFED.

• Americans throw out about one-fourth of the food they purchase, equaling about an average of $1,365 to $2,275 per household.

• About 49 million Americans, or one in seven people, are food insecure meaning they have uncertain or limited access to adequate food. 

Combatting hunger

"The fact that food waste and hunger exists simultaneously is a paradox that is very difficult for me to wrap my head around, but the fact is that we're here. And now we have to figure out how to move forward," said Yvette Cabrera, food waste analyst for The Rockefeller Foundation. "The issues of food waste and hunger are extremely complex ... but they're solvable."

Combating food waste isn't the only solution, but can help fight hunger, she said.

Cabrera pointed out that universities are in a unique position to help tackle the problem.

"Universities are a hot spot for innovation," she said.

Fighting hunger and food waste will require a united, interdisciplinary approach, she said.

She encouraged students and administrators to talk about the problem and look at implementing initiatives such as developing a food recovery strategy, talking with local food banks, starting a campus kitchen or supporting hungry students.

"I encourage all of us to work together. Ending food waste and hunger is going to require collaboration and inspiration and it's going to take all of us," she said.

Addressing hunger also requires more than just taken unwanted food and giving it to someone who's hungry, said Laura Toscano, director of the Campus Kitchens Project.

"If we're just rescuing food and giving it to food insecure people, if it's not actually making them less food insecure on a regular basis, that's not good enough. That's just charity. That's not fixing the underlying root cause of the problem," Toscano said.

Universities need to make sure that initiatives have a measurable impact, Toscano said. The Campus Kitchens project — which recovers uneaten food from dining halls and cafeterias and turns it into nutritious meals that are delivered regularly to clients — has done that, she said.

"I encourage you to think big about the root causes of this systemic problem," she said. 

"At the end of the day, we can't solve hunger with food alone."

For more information, a guide to ending campus food waste, "Trash Hunger, Not Food," is available online at campusfoodwaste.org.

Reach Jessica at 330-580-8322 or jessica.holbrook@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @jholbrookREP