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Food and sustainability

Studying waste at school

A high school in Taranto specialising in IT has developed an educational project on food waste using materials produced by BCFN. The children then put the theories they learned into practice by delivering food packages to people in need.

It is possible to learn not to waste food and at the same time help out those who are less fortunate. And you can do it at school. This is the underlying message of the educational project developed by the teachers of class II B IT at I.I.S.S. Pacinotti di Taranto, coordinated by science teacher Mariateresa Mascellaro.
When we started out, at the beginning of the year, I just wanted to be able to offer a few multidisciplinary lessons on food waste, using the BCFN materials available online as a source of data and information”, explained Ms. Mascellaro. “The idea came to me when I visited the ‘pavilion zero’ at the Expo, helped by the fact that I am trained in biology and nutrition. Our school is an IT Technical Institute and the project involved a lot of different subjects, such as science, religion, law, Italian, foreign languages, physics, technical drawing, IT and physical education. The Principal, Dr. Vito Giuseppe Leopardo, believed in making this project happen, and made it part of our citizenship workshops”.

Educational model
From September to February, the teachers worked to raise awareness among the children of the issue at hand, analysing data from the FAO and the infographics produced by BCFN. We looked at all aspects of food waste, from production to distribution and domestic consumption”.
In February, every student carried out a detailed project, preparing a power-point presentation on one specific aspect of the problem, looking into the issue in great depth. “This type of activity allows us not only to assess how much the students have learnt but also their ability to use the concepts and apply them in a more complex general framework as well as independently finding sources of information other than those suggested by the teacher”.
The individual presentations fed into a group presentation where all the various aspects of food waste were explored in detail. This helped the students to produce an information leaflet which was distributed to families, in supermarkets and at cafés around the town.
In April, we presented the material and the project as a whole to the Mayor of Taranto (who is also a paediatrician) who showed immediate interest in what the students had achieved”.

The Paradox of Hunger
Studying the topic of food waste also raises awareness of the current paradox that although there is enough food to feed everyone around the world, there are still many people suffering from hunger and also urges people to get personally involved in tackling the problem. A third of global food production is lost, destroyed or wasted during the processes of conservation, processing, distribution and consumption, and this quantity would be enough to feed the almost 800 million people suffering from hunger around the world 4 times over. This type of fact has a profound impact on many people, especially young people.

With this in mind, we reached an agreement with the Amici di Manaus association which, among its many activities, has a food package distribution centre for those in need”, explained Mascellaro.
Initially, the students (who came up against the regulatory constraints on the matter wanted to collect what shops and restaurants were going to throw away and reuse it, but then decided to hand out food packages at the association’s headquarters one afternoon a week.
It was an extremely eye-opening experience”, the teacher explained. “The students got to see in the flesh what it means not to have any food, and also started to take sustainability into account in their own lives and get a real impression of what it costs to ensure everyone has food to eat”.
Until now, the project has only involved one class, but it will be extended to others in the coming year. The Ministry of Education suggested that the teachers involved participate in a specific call for tender for the development of “citizenship workshops” in order to cover the costs related to the work and to extending it further.
At the end of the year, here in Taranto, we hosted a group of Swedish teachers as part of the Erasmus programme and the students presented the project in English. Our guests were really impressed not only by the issue being dealt with, but also by the fact that there were people who relied on food packages in order to eat. They told us that in their country, hunger caused by economic or employment problems simply doesn’t exist”.
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