Activism has come front and center at college campuses all over America, sometimes for important reasons, sometimes because the chicken in the dining hall isn’t up to par. But years before students engaged in the protests and hashtag wars that currently dominate the media’s coverage of the college experience, Ben Simon started a movement at the University of Maryland focused on a topic that, while not as flashy as some you’ve heard about, is just as important.
Six billion pounds a year—that’s the number cited by Simon (and Feeding America) as the amount of produce that is either thrown away or never picked in America. In 2010, the number 6 billion didn’t mean anything to Simon; neither, really, did the idea of food waste. But a late lunch at the dining hall began a process that would eventually push Simon to lead the charge against the pernicious problem of wasted food.
“Some of my friends and I were in an organization focused on hunger and homelessness, and heard rumors that the dining hall [at the University of Maryland] was throwing out a lot of food every day. One day we were in the pizza and pasta line five minutes before closing … and asked what they were going to do with the food that was left. The guy behind the counter said they were going to throw it away. That they had to.”