Chloe King is a Knapp Fellow working to reduce food waste in DC schools, partnering with the World Wildlife Fund, where she interned last year. She is also co-founder and president of GW Scuba Club and studied abroad in Indonesia. Aleena Khan, a service-learning scholar here at the Nashman Center, spoke to Chloe about her compelling project and her experience as a Knapp Fellow.
Aleena: Can you briefly describe your project?
Chloe: Last year, I was interning for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in the fall of 2016 on their Food Waste Team – so I when I initially started, I was thinking, “How on earth does food waste relate to wildlife?” and that was normally a big question that people have when they hear about the WWF and the Food Waste Team. Why do they have that team?
Food and agricultural production are one of the biggest threats to wildlife on the planet, and at the same time, we’re wasting 38-40% of the food that we produce for consumption. It’s a massive problem, and one that I learned more about throughout the course of my internship there. My boss, Pete Pearson, was wonderful; he just said – partially because he was stressed by so many projects – to just pick whatever I want, and that I’ll manage it.
So, I picked schools – they’ve always wanted to start a project in schools – so I started developing a curriculum. I’ve developed a lesson plan, PowerPoints, educational posters, activities, things like that for an age range of 5th grade and up that’s really adjustable. I worked for them for that whole fall semester and were finalizing all those materials and other work as well that the team was doing. I then went abroad last year, from January until August, for 7 months, so I was not involved with food waste for a while.
When I was away, I heard about the Knapp Fellowship and I applied for it with the aim of working with the WWF when I got back. I knew that, regardless of whether or not I would have gotten [the Fellowship] that I wanted to work with the WWF again, since I wanted to complete what I had already done.
This big push this time around was to do it really locally and utilize the fact that the headquarters were here. There’s a lot of people in the office that have experience doing these kinds of food waste audits, and essentially being able to go into schools and helping them perform the food waste audits. At this point now, it’s really been about getting the approval of the people in DC, like the Department of General Services, DC Public Works, DCPS and the bureaucracy there, the Organization of Superintendent Schools and Education (OSSE). That’s essentially what’s been going on so far, with the project.
The plan, ultimately, is to get a lot of feedback from teachers this year when we’re actually doing the audits in the lunchroom and teaching kids about food waste so we can put this all on our website and have teachers all over the nation collecting data about food waste audits in their schools and collecting donations as well and getting that to food banks and people that need it.
A: What is the process of partner acquisition?
C: It’s been a little bit difficult and part of the reason that I love working with WWF so much is that it’s a really respected organization within the conservation space and also within the education space – kids sort of grow up looking at the Panda calendars. It’s a really good networking device to use, which is why I’ve enjoyed working with them.
Typically, I’ll reach out to them and say, “Hi, my name is Chloe and I’m from the WWF Food Waste Team; this a project that we’re working on, how can we help you?” Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is to give schools the resources to pursue this and have it be as simple as possible for them to take on. Initially, I thought that I would just reach out to a principal and they would be interested and that would be it, but it’s been way more complicated than that.
It’s mostly been about getting a really interested parent or teacher that are already engaged in stuff like this. A lot of the schools I’ve already talked to have school gardens or have been doing an environmental curriculum previously. In terms of reaching out to the local government, that’s been fairly easy because there’s been a lot of initiatives in DC in regards to food waste.
Councilman Mary Shay, for Ward 3, has been really big into food waste initiatives, so she’s been helping us with networking and getting approval because we can’t just walk into a public school and start something. That’s also been a big barrier that I hadn’t quite been aware of; we’ve had to get approval from all these different agencies before we could even begin any curriculum work. But, we’ve gotten all the approval we need and have sort of sent out information and have set a soft deadline of November 1st.
A: How has the Knapp Fellowship aided with your project?
C: The WWF does have a lot of resources, but at the same time, it is a large organization. Having a certain amount of money that I can use separate from WWF that I can really use to fulfill a need is really nice. Transportation costs become really expensive, since I’m taking the metro back and forth between sites, so it’s also helped with that.
I’m ideally hoping to use the money to hire other students that have interest in this. I gave a presentation on food waste in my climate change and policy class and asked everyone at the end that if they’re interested or know how to do audits, then I could pay them or give them a $50 gift card for doing it and a lot of people were interested in doing it. I have a good friend who interned for the WWF’s Food Waste Team this past summer, so I’m going to try to have her help me as well. That’s all what I’m probably going to use the money for.
Also, if schools need any materials, such as buckets, scales, sorting materials, I could buy them those supplies. It’s just nice to know that I have this funding available to actually pursue the project, because if I was just doing it on my own, it would be really difficult.
A: How has your project personally impacted you?
C: I’ve always been interested in the food system and how it’s worked – I’ve been a vegetarian since I was ten – but I never understood how big of an issue food waste was until I started working at WWF. I think that itself has been a really big learning experience for me, kind of learning about the other side of the food system. I think the biggest impact is going to be seeing children learn; I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent developing this lesson plan, and it’s going to be so nice to see it out there and to see students learn it as well as getting that immediate feedback from teachers.
A: What advice would you give to someone who’s unsure about applying for the Knapp Fellowship or is unsure if their idea is developed enough to apply for the Fellowship?
C: I think I myself applied to it literally a week before the deadline. I was thinking more and more about it and realized that it would be so helpful in aiding what I wanted to do. Even at that point, I didn’t really have much of a concrete project, but it was really helpful that I had interned at WWF before and knew it was something that I wanted to go back to. So, I would recommend for anyone who wants to apply for the Fellowship to have an organization in mind. In my experience so far with developing this project, having the resources, people, and team at the WWF that I can talk to about this has been critical to this project. Even if you don’t have a direct connection to an organization, try to foster a relationship with them. All these organizations are trying to do the same thing, and you have the unique opportunity to be the one who unites them all towards a single project, which I think it really cool to do with a student.
The Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service-Learning makes it possible for exceptional GW students to combine scholarship with action and change the world. Prizes of up to $10,000 will be given out to student-led service projects.
Don't miss your chance to apply! The 2018 application is live now and is due by January 12, 2018. For questions about the Knapp Fellowship or for mentorship with your idea contact Wendy Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org