IRVINE, Calif. – When the pandemic broke out, the food industry was seeing a chain effect. Restaurants closed, people didn’t order as much to take away, and grocers as farmers had massive surpluses.
Irvine’s student Nithin Parthasarathy said he wanted to make sure the excess doesn’t end up in the trash. He made efforts to address at least one area of food waste.
What you need to know
- Nithin Parthasarathy started the Zero Waste Initiative
- He collects unsold bagels and baked goods from local stores
- Daily transportation of baked goods is delivered to local non-profit organizations
- Parthasarathy helped save more than $ 15,000 worth of food waste in three months
Parthasarathy said he grew up in a household where everything is on the plate. Whenever he came home from school with leftovers from his lunch, he had to eat those leftovers first, before he even started his homework.
Not wasting food is only part of Parthasarathy’s life.
According to the USDA, food waste makes up about 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in this country.
The high school junior said one day he discovered he was contributing to food waste when he ordered a meager bagel from a local shop in Irvine.
“This is basically when they chop off part of the bagel to make it smaller. I saw them throw away that chopped off part and I was really sad to see that, ”said Parthasarathy.
As the pandemic drags on and fewer people are eating out, Parthasarathy said he wondered how much food has been and continues to be thrown away.
He said that in addition to increasing food waste, there has been more unemployment.
“There are so many more people who are food insecure and they cannot get food regularly,” Parthasarathy said.
Parthasarathy decided to reduce food waste and help those in need. He started the Zero Waste Initiative.
He can’t drive yet, but with the help of his mother, father and volunteers, Parthasarathy collects unsold bagels and baked goods from local stores.
He collects bagels in three to five shops every day – an obligation that lasts several hours every day.
Every night he also collects unsold donuts from local donut stores to donate. Parthasarathy said every minute is worth it because it will help those who may not know where their next meal is coming from.
Daily transportation of baked goods is delivered to local non-profit organizations.
One of the organizations receiving bagels is Lighthouse Outreach Ministries in Costa Mesa.
Lindah Miles is the outreach director and said the nonprofit supports hundreds of people every day, including “the homeless and needy, the elderly, veterans, the sick and in their homes”.
The bagels are packed and filled in sacks full of groceries to give to the many people who support their organization with feeding them.
Miles said at the start of the pandemic that food donations had decreased while the number of those in need increased, but she said Parthasarathy contacted her by chance.
“I got blown away. Here’s this young man who wants to deliver bagels. Of course! That makes it so much easier to carry out this process,” Miles said.
So Parthasarathy said he started collecting the bagels and making this effort.
“I just like to help people,” he said.
Parthasarathy helped save more than $ 15,000 worth of food waste in three months. The bagels helped feed hundreds of people in need during the pandemic.