GOOD

How Exploring Food Waste in America Inspired Me to Start My Own Business

Last August, I explored food waste in America on the Millennial Trains Project, a crowdfunded, transcontinental train journey for future leaders. We went to seven U.S. cities all innovating to improve various facets of the food system: San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.

Last August, I explored food waste in America on the Millennial Trains Project, a crowdfunded, transcontinental train journey for future leaders. We went to seven U.S. cities all innovating to improve various facets of the food system: San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC.


With two years out of a three-year public health fellowship program at UNC Chapel-Hill, I needed inspiration and a direction in which to shape my own professional path. Because Americans throw out an astounding 40 percent of food each year, a value of $165 billion, my goal onboard the Millennial Train was to find ways to improve healthy food access for the 23.5 million people who live in food deserts, or areas that lack fresh fruit and vegetable options. I set out to answer two questions. The first was, “In what ways do people recover food destined for the landfill and reintroduce it to the market in a meaningful way?” And the second was perhaps the more daunting, “Where should I go with my career?”

Visiting pay-what-you-can Table Grace Café in Nebraska

On the trip I met with food policy experts and entrepreneurs striving to improve the food system. In San Francisco I talked with food waste experts at The Natural Resource Defense Council. In Salt Lake City I spoke with an anti-hunger advocate about offering purchase power to low-income families by selling healthy food at an affordable price. In Denver I met with MM Local, a company that partners with local farmers to save farm produce that is blemished and misshapen (and therefore not fit for farmer’s markets), by creating canned items such as peaches and tomato sauce. In Omaha I experienced my first pay-what-you-can restaurant, and in Chicago I met a CEO of a major health food company. I also visited The Plant, a renovated warehouse where small food-based businesses use the certified kitchen to smoke meat, bake bread and brew beer in Chicago's South Side. All the food waste produced by these various businesses are processed in an on-site anaerobic digester, which converts the food into biogas, and then energy used to power the warehouse.

Growhaus, an urban farm and food hub in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood of Denver.

Reflecting from my city tour experience, the on-train lectures and mentors helped me transition from learner to leader. The combination of city-led experiences and on-train leadership training summated into the courage I needed to evolve from thinking to action, because I talked to those on the ground making real world change.

At my home base in North Carolina, I continue to explore local food heroes in my blog, and speak about my experience on the Millennial Train at conferences, events and classrooms. I am committed to starting my own food business that flash freezes farm “seconds” and sells to universities, grocers, and corner stores in rural communities—so that all people have access to local, healthy, and sustainable food. I aim to increase profits for local farmers using sustainable farming practices, and increase the amount of local produce offered in retailers and institutions around the state. After only two months in UNC’s Launch the Venture course, a nine-month business startup class that takes an idea from inception to execution, my project has advanced in encouraging ways, as I will be representing UNC Chapel-Hill in a statewide social entrepreneurship competition.

The Millennial Trains Project propelled me to action – a risky, gray area full of the unknown. Though I am unsure where my project will lead me and what is next, from my vantage point all directions lead up.

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This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

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As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

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Footage from September 2018 shows an officer pushing Perez to the ground. After Perez got to his feet, multiple officers kicked and punched him in an attempt to get him back on the ground.

Perez claims he was responding to insults hurled at him by the officers. The police say that Perez was picking a fight. The altercation left Perez with a broken nose, scrapes, swelling, and bruises from his hips to his shoulder.

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