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The Green Life: Polytechnic High School Students Fight Trader Joe's Food Waste

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April 28, 2011

Polytechnic High School Students Fight Trader Joe's Food Waste

Polytechnic High School students Following a school-wide screening of Dive!, Jeremy Seifert’s documentary about food waste in America, nine seniors at Pasadena's Polytechnic High School took it upon themselves to urge Trader Joe’s to adopt a corporate policy for zero food waste. Currently, Trader Joe’s, like many grocery stores, doesn't take an official stance on food waste, so it remains up to individual managers to decide what each store does with its surplus. Much of it ends up in dumpsters.

Though Trader Joe's professes to be your friendly neighborhood store, "they’re not fulfilling a large portion of that view, especially when the food is staring you right in the face in the dumpsters," said Jordan Kutzer, one of the Polytechnic seniors.

Through a class called "Memoir and Social Change," teacher Julie Davis helped the students organize to send more than 100 letters to Trader Joe’s headquarters via Dive’s Eat Trash! campaign. In response, Matt Sloan, Trader Joe’s VP of marketing, paid the class a visit. While the students were grateful for the opportunity to speak with Sloan, they were ultimately disappointed by his reaction to their concerns.

According to student Daniel Lizardo, “The gist of what he said was that he didn’t think Trader Joe’s customers care about sustainability and we know for a fact that’s not true. We’re all consumers of Trader Joe’s, we all love to shop there, and that’s part of why we chose to take this initiative."

The students are working on establishing an on-campus club, Dumpster Drivers, that will continue their work after they graduate, and serve as a middleman between grocery stores and food banks, the goal being to save as much surplus food as possible.

While Trader Joe's stores do have revolving positions called donation coordinators, the "logistics simply aren't in place to make sure that edible food gets to hungry mouths," says teacher Julie Davis.

--Shirley Mak / photo courtesy Sean Hollihan

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