Inspiring Your Student Changemakers
Inspiring Your Student Changemakers
"The main thing is to not just sit there and sulk over something that bothers you. Go out and talk to people about it!" —Gabrielle Posard
One of our missions in Scope is to bring your students content that will not only inspire and engage them but that will also help them understand that they have agency in their lives and communities. That's why we hope you'll share with your students an interview that we did with a remarkable young person who saw a problem and did something about it.
At the age of 12, Gabriel Posard started a program called Donate Don't Dump, which brings unsold food from supermarkets—food that would otherwise go to waste—to people in need in her community.
We learned about Gabrielle while researching our nonfiction story about food waste, "This Apple Could Have Been Saved," which you can find in the October issue of Scope.
After reading the article and the interview below, discuss the following as a class:
- Why does food get wasted?
- What problems does food waste create?
- How are those problems being solved? How are they not being solved?
- How can we as a society be less wasteful?
Gabrielle Posard, age 19, student at Stanford University
Hometown: San Diego, California
Claim to fame: She founded the food rescue organization Donate Don't Dump.
Gabrielle at a food distribution event in San Diego
Scope: How did you get the idea to start Donate Don’t Dump?
Gabrielle: It all started when I was 12. My older sister was working on a documentary film for school about hunger in America and she told me two statistics that really stood out: 96 billion pounds of food are wasted very year, yet one in seven people are food insecure. (I’m pretty sure those numbers have gone up since then.) I learned that grocery stores throw out a lot of food because shoppers think that once food reaches its sell-by date, it isn’t safe to eat. But in fact, food is perfectly edible for about a week after the sell-by date, if properly refrigerated. That got me thinking: All that food is going into a landfill when it could be given to people who need it. I talked to my parents about all this. I was getting riled up, as I usually do when I’m dissatisfied with something in the world. My mom told me that I could take action. She made me feel like my idea wasn’t just some silly kid idea. She made me feel like I could actually change things.
Gabrielle during the early years of Donate Don't Dump
Scope: What was the first thing you did to put your idea into action?
Gabrielle: I came up with the name Donate Don’t Dump, and I created a Facebook page to inform people about the issue of food waste. I started talking to my friends about my idea to rescue food from supermarkets and bring it to hungry people. Then my aunt, who is a lawyer, helped make Donate Don’t Dump an official nonprofit organization. At first it was just me, my sister, and some friends. I started going to local events at the North County Food Bank and city council meetings, which are open to the public. I remember after one city council meeting, I gave my elevator pitch for Donate Don’t Dump to the head of a supermarket chain, and he patted me on the head and told me it was a cute idea. I faced a lot of that in the beginning. But within a year, I started talking to the right people, and then I was able to approach grocery stores with not just an idea but a plan.
All the food here has been "rescued" from supermarkets and offered for free to those in need.
Scope: How does Donate Don’t Dump work?
Gabrielle: One of our partner food banks picks up the extra food from one of our partner grocery stores. The bank brings the food to one of our distribution events, where the food it is available for free to anyone who wants it. We try to get stores to donate healthy food. Most people who are food insecure can probably afford the dollar menu at McDonald’s, but find it really hard to buy quality food. So we encourage stores to donate fruits, vegetables, and breads. I remember early on, there was a woman who would come to each food distribution event. She told me that she would freeze the food she took home and it would last her until the next distribution event, two weeks later. That was the first time I realized how big of an impact you can make in people’s lives.
We also have Donate Don’t Dump clubs, mostly in schools, where you can get a group of people together and start an official chapter to raise awareness about food waste, help raise money for the organization, or volunteer at a food distribution event.
Gabrielle with a few Donate Don't Dump volunteers
Scope: It’s been seven years since you started Donate Don’t Dump. What are you doing these days?
Gabrielle: Sadly, I’m not as involved in Donate Don’t Dump as I used to be, because I’m in college now and I don’t have the time. So these days, Donate Don’t Dump is run mostly by a great organization called Feeding America. I’m really proud of the fact that when Donate Don’t Dump got started, food rescue wasn’t really part of the conversation and now it is.
Being a part of Donate Don’t Dump has made me realize that there are important issues out there that people aren’t necessarily talking about and that aren’t being covered in the news. It might be a really small issue, but it can have a big effect. I think the main thing is to not just sit there and sulk over something that bothers you. Go out and talk to people about it! You’ll meet other people who are equally bothered by the same issue and together, you can go out and make a difference. That can be more doable than people might think.