Film student finds passion for food recovery; puts camera skills to use helping local non-profit share its climate story
Writing and photos by Laura Braasch, Assistant Director for Experiential Learning- Dartmouth Sustainability Office
Students on Food Systems Immersion Trip inspect a field of soil-building cover crops with organic farmer and Dartmouth ‘18, Ralf Carestia.
This summer, ten students had some farmy fun on a series of field trips over two weekends to gain a deeper understanding of how our food system works through a new Sustainability Office program– New England Food Systems Immersion. Through visits with key contributors in all parts of the food supply chain, our students saw the realities, challenges, and hope present in our local foodshed. Throughout the experience, our students met and worked alongside veggie producers, dairy farmers, food recovery organizations, educators, chefs, farmers markets, homesteaders, agricultural researchers, food service workers, policymakers, and more! Check out our highlight reel to explore more.
This program was an eye-opening experience for our students and was particularly impactful for one student, Hudson Rogers, ‘25. As a film studies major who grew up in Beijing, Shanghai, and Dallas, Rogers found it fascinating to learn about the complexities and challenges of our food system, even in the seemingly simple and pastoral foodshed of the Upper Valley. After the food systems immersion trip, he was inspired by the important work of local food recovery organization, Willing Hands, and he continued to volunteer for the organization in the summer and fall.
Willing Hands Staff Member, Mikey Van Siclen, shows Dartmouth students the cold storage facility where produce is held until delivery.
When Willing Hands expressed interest in some help communicating their organization’s positive climate impacts, the Sustainability Office created a collaborative internship to help with the effort. Rogers was eager to step into the role and put his passion for food recovery and his filmmaking skills to use in creating a video to call attention to the significant but often overlooked impacts of food waste on climate and the ways in which food recovery efforts could contribute to our climate solutions in a big way. Rogers feels that food waste is a largely unseen problem: “People don’t recognize that food waste is a problem– one that has a solution if you can make people aware of it. By sharing the huge climate impact of food waste, it may spur people to action.”
Krista Karlson, Willing Hands Outreach & Development Manager, says that “food recovery is one of the most impactful climate solutions that we can employ.” According to Project Drawdown, about one-third of all food produced goes to waste. Karlson explains that when food gets wasted, the emissions from the food rotting in a landfill are not the only climate impacts– all the emissions embedded in the production of that food get wasted as well. Think of all the energy that goes into fertilizers, labor, processing, packaging, transportation– all wasted. Reducing this waste can be a significant pathway towards reducing emissions, globally, and meeting future food demand. Karlson says that in drafting their Climate Action Plan, she learned that “food recovery and food waste reduction has potential to be a much bigger carbon reduction impact than the transition to electric vehicles.” That certainly puts the importance of this work into perspective!
Right now, Willing Hands’ local food recovery efforts make their organization carbon negative by about 1 million pounds CO2e annually. Karlson says, “this is the carbon equivalent of taking 100 cars off the road each year.” While that is quite an achievement, the food recovery organization is pushing itself to do even better. It is about to launch a newly designed Climate Action Plan, which will measure the climate impact from their food recovery and outline further strategies to reduce emissions from their operations, though implementing these strategies will take more funding and support.
Students tour the Willing Hands facility and learn about the positive social and climate impacts of food recovery work.
Rogers took this information and spent the fall term filming, editing, and working with the staff at Willing Hands to produce a short video. Rogers found the process of making this video really exciting, reflecting that “it was cool to be working on more of a documentary-style piece. It pushed me to gain some new skills as a filmmaker.”
Willing Hands sees its partnership with the Sustainability Office at Dartmouth as “really positive. It’s important to develop meaningful connections between the College and the social services and nonprofits in our region. We have a lot to learn from and offer each other.” The Sustainability Office looks forward to more inspiring collaborations with Willing Hands. Rogers does too: “It is inspiring to work for an organization that seems to have only positive impacts- reducing food waste, helping those in need, and helping the climate. I hope to stay involved with them while I am at Dartmouth.”