Maya Kaup: Stepping Up to Stop Food Waste

By Jay Shenai, July 16, 2015

From music lessons to sports like gymnastics and track, to volunteering with the Girl Scouts, Maya Kaup, 20, was raised to explore every opportunity, and to stay busy. Maya KaupTo find a niche. To get involved. It was only natural, then, during her freshman year at Willamette University that a Facebook video on food waste and community hunger spurred her to action. Why not bring food recovery to her school?

Why not here? Why not me?

“Someone had to do it,” the biology major said. “I see it as a moral obligation.”

For her TED talk, Kaup will share her experiences founding the Willamette University chapter of the Food Recovery Network, a national non-profit that focuses on fighting food waste and hunger. According to FRN statistics, 17.5 million families nationwide are “food-insecure,” not sure where their next meal will come from. In Oregon, 15 percent of families are food-insecure; the poverty rate in Marion County is 19.5 percent. Meanwhile, Americans discard 35 million tons of food per year, or roughly 40 percent of all food produced in the country.

In 2014, Kaup along with 20 volunteers helped the university block 8,000 pounds of surplus, unsold food from the garbage to feed the homeless. 635521005049941726-SAL1123-Causes-FoodRecovery-ar-01Not only is good food not thrown away, but nutritious fruits and vegetables are saved for those who can’t often have them, Kaup said.

“It’s a win-win,” she said.

When Kaup isn’t managing the FRN, she takes a full course load at school, and also helps care for orphaned animals at the Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center. Seeing the successes of her efforts motivates her to do even more, she said.

It “fuels my fire,” she said. “It makes me realize I can make a difference.”

To see Maya Kaup and other TEDx Salem 2015 speakers, buy tickets here.