Harnessing waste, building success
Himmelheber, Sarah Ann
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Food rescue and redistribution, understood as the harnessing and redirection of food that would be otherwise wasted, as a food security strategy is understudied. Because this type of intervention recognizes the waste inherent to the industrial food system, potential exists for food rescue and redistribution to address immediate food needs while contributing to a progressive change in focus to community food security (CFS). As a nationally-networked, rapidly-growing effort taking place on college and university campuses (as well as two high schools), the Campus Kitchens Project (CKP) provides an opportunity to increase knowledge about food rescue and redistribution interventions. The purpose of this study was to better understand the culture of one branch of the CKP (the Campus Kitchen at Marquette University, or CKMU) and investigate its relationship to the broader community. This research study employed a qualitative case study design. Due to the interest in culture, ethnographic methods were used in data collection, including six weeks of participant observations. Data collection also included individual and focus group interviews, pre-existing and researcher-generated documents, and photographs. Four research questions guided this study: 1) How is CKMU structured and organized? 2) How are relationships constructed and maintained between representatives of CKMU and representatives of community partner agencies? 3) What are the cultural norms for student engagement? 4) How do CKMU stakeholder groups think about the successes, challenges, and contributions of CKMU? Data analysis, guided by the constant comparative method and organized via Atlas.ti, revealed that CKMU’s structure and organization was jointly influenced by undergirding, institutional forces and daily routines. Relationships between CKMU and its community partners formed with an initial energy; however, data demonstrated that these relationships typically became routinized and inertia-bound. Student volunteers were found to have variable levels of participation. Their involvement stemmed from several key sources and multiple benefits of participation were identified. In addition to the perspective of students, findings from this study reported on CKMU’s impact within the social service sector as well as on the lives of its volunteers. Challenges related to organizational growth and stretching the mission of CKMU were presented from multiple stakeholder perspectives.