Solution Journalism spring 2023: How to eliminate food waste

Food waste that can turn into powerful soil. (Photo provided by: Carolyn Heneghan)

The Problem:

For a city that puts such an emphasis on its culinary mastery, New Orleans “runs on tourism dollars and conviviality was bound to suffer some notable losses in the pandemic, particularly in the dining world,” (Fausset, 2022). In downtown New Orleans, and especially in the French Quarter, there is this insatiable gluttony that attracts people to New Orleans: food, and “new restaurants and old are thrumming again as tourists flock back to town and locals get back to their love affair with their city,” (Fausset, 2022). And yet, The disparity between the consumption of food in New Orleans and the waste of food products is quite large, but the environmental implications have influenced the city’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability “to seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in five areas, including transportation, energy and economic growth,” (Rosenberg, 2022). 

On a broader scale, “in 2019, the annual food waste produced by the food service industry in Louisiana was 160,000 tons,” (LifeCity, 2021). According to Feeding America, there are about 718,360 people that are food insecure in Louisiana, and 15.5% of people are estimated to be program eligible among people without food in Louisiana. Additionally, food waste in New Orleans can also be attributed to earlier steps condoned by the state of Louisiana. For example, In the U.S. Food Waste Policy Finder, Louisiana Food Waste Policy includes things such as Date Labeling, Liability Protection, Tax Incentives, Animal Feed, and Waste Bins & Recycling Laws, and he only date labeling required for food in Louisiana is eggs, and “neither sale nor donation is restricted for any food item past date,” (ReFed, 2023). Additionally, the federal government provides tax incentives to businesses to donate food, but as a state, Louisiana does not offer any tax incentives, meaning that the city of New Orleans also does not offer tax incentives.

Currently, there are no laws in Louisiana that require organic waste bans or waste recycling laws that bear on food waste. To narrow it down, New Orleans has thousands of starving people and places like “Culture Aid Nold (CAN), a nonprofit that distributes free groceries twice a week to some 3,000 people,” helps to keep those in need of food afloat (Chaves, 2022). When the amount of starving people in New Orleans is contrasted with the amount of food waste produced by the service industry in New Orleans, it puts into perspective how vital restaurants are to the city’s economy and culture. Other cities such as Austin, Texas “passed a law in 2018 that bans restaurants from throwing away food waste. Instead, they must compost and donate it,” (Gollobit, 2020). 

According to the New Orleans Food Policy Action Council “there are over 1,200 food serving businesses that continue the culture, life, and love of this city, but also produce tons of waste per day, including kitchen waste.” According to the EPA, about “25-40% of the food that is grown, processed, and transported in the U.S. won’t be eaten,” and being able to predict food requirements is necessary, especially since restaurants run on slim margins, if you want to continue to maintain your business (Pulido, 2023). To add, the restaurants that make up New Orleans’ fragile ecosystem, dependent entirely on the demand of the tourism industry, because “over 10 million tourists from all over the world came to New Orleans in 2017 to sample the food, tour the swamps, and view the architecture,” as well as cater to the 133 festivals that happen annually, (Haggerty, 2019).

The New Orleans landscape, especially the fact that it is located below sea level, also makes it hard to create landfills, so instead these sorts of garbage mountains are created. These landfills pose a threat to neighborhoods and ecosystems nearby, and contaminate nearby bodies of water like Lake Pontchartrain. Additionally, “the heavily industrialized stretch of the Mississippi River extending from Baton Rouge to south of New Orleans accounts for more than half of the state’s greenhouse footprint,” yet without much government action, lots of responsibility has been placed on with local residents or community organizations such as A Greener New Orleans to reduce emissions and reallocate food waste, (Parker, 2022).

These New Orleans Organizations have been using three primary methods to redirect food wastes and help the environment: “(1) making edible foods available for community kitchens or food insecure individuals, (2) using it as animal feed in urban farms, and (3) converting it to compost for fertilizing soil,” (Haggerty, 2019). The duty to teach the public about these issues has also fallen on these organizations. After New Orleans residents have been exposed to events such as merciless pandemic and the ruthless hurricane season, they have now found themselves in an even larger food crisis. New Orleans relies on the assistance of organizations that feed the hungry is still vital to the survival of New Orleans. Feed NOLA, which is a partner of Giving Hope NOLA and New Orleans Food Pantry are working to help find a solution to hunger in New Orleans. Feed NOLA firmly believes in their slogan, or their mantra, that “a city known for food, shouldn’t have hungry people.” 

The Solution

On the other side of the nation, “Los Angeles residents are now required to compost their food scraps as a new law aimed at reducing organic waste takes effect,” which is expressed through Senate Bill 1383 which requires all restaurants, businesses and residents to separate their food waste from their trash (Chow, 2023). Los Angeles, like New Orleans, deals with a lot of food waste, but Los Angeles also deals with many different types of people living there. With regards to the contemporary American dream, “everyone wants a better body, better clothes, a better car, a bigger house, a swimming pool and to live in a gated community in the sunshine of California, Las Vegas, and Florida,” (Glass, 2017).

Before the College Admissions Scandal, Olivia Jade Giannulli would film many of her Youtube videos in her Bel Air mansion, giving her viewers a personal look into what it was like to live with a famous family. At the beginning of her Youtube career in 2014, Olivia would feature her mother, Lori Loughlin, an American-sweetheart known for her acting in Full House, in videos such as a 15-Step Makeup Tutorial, which got 614,000 views, whereas other videos she posted back in 2015 would only get about 70,000 views. Before the USC scandal, Olivia’s vlogs focused more on her lifestyle, such as her going to Erewhon, a boujee and sustainable grocery store based in Los Angeles, while still incorporating her beauty content like Everyday Makeup Tutorials.

In the fall of 2018 when she started USC, she would make weekly vlogs where she would film herself and her friends at fraternity parties, and showed herself walking around USC’s campus. In a now-deleted vlog, she said “I don’t really care about school as you guys all know,” (Gillespie, 2019), and continued to share how she didn’t know or care about the number of classes she planned on attending. When the college admissions scandal aired, Olivia ceased posting on all of her platforms, and “lost lucrative deals with Sephora, Tresemmé, and Estée Lauder,” (Walsh, S., 2021). Her followers on Youtube dropped from 1.9 million to 1.84 million, and her Instagram followers from 1.4 million to 1.3 million (Walsh, S., 2021).

Olivia continued to be friends with other super-famous creators, such as David Dobrik who has 18M Youtube subscribers, during the college admissions scandal. Even before the scandal, Olivia tweeted that “Youtube will always be my #1 passion. I promise I’d rather be filming 24/7 than sitting in 6 hours of classes straight,” and demonstrated this through her weekly posts and collaborations on Youtube with other famous creators like Trisha Paytas, Maddie Ziegler, and John Stamos (Gillespie, 2019). John Stamos was not the only member of Full House that Olivia was connected with through her mom’s network. She featured Candace Cameron Bure’s daughter, Natasha Bure, on her Youtube channel for years, allowing viewers to watch the two grow up together. Olivia demonstrated “the inability of an individual to understand the consequences of [her] actions because of their social status or economic privilege,” (Hayes, 2022). Olivia made the statement that “she did not initially realize her parents were breaking the law because she knew of other children whose parents had done the same thing,” (BBC, 2020) and that she was ultimately embarrassed that she had not realized that she had grown up in such a privileged bubble.

Regardless, Lori Loughlin spent two months in jail, and Mossimo Giannulli spent five months in jail on “one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud,” (Taylor, 2020). By accepting the plea deal to go to prison, both Loughlin and Giannulli were protecting their daughters even more, sparing them from going to trial and from all legal consequences. During the times of the crimes, both Olivia and her sister Isabella Giannulli were minors, but if they had been of legal age, “it would have been reasonable to name them as unindicted co-conspirators,” (Ross, 2020). 

After the Red Table Talk in December 2020, Olivia continued posting daily vlogs on Youtube. Ever since, “each of her videos has amassed more than 100,000 views,” (Walsh, S., 2021), She did not ask for the public’s pity and owned up to the cheating scandal during the Red Table Talk. Olivia was the one who initiated the interview and talked not only to Jada Pinket Smith, but Adrienne Banfield-Narris, and Willow Smith. Banfield-Norris was not a fan of the idea of having Olivia on the show at first, and “found it really ironic that she chose three Black women to reach out for her redemption story”, saying that “her being here is the epitome of white privilege,” (Bryant, 2020). After the show, she was still posting wearing three thousand dollar Missoni outfits while on vacation in Mexico during the Pandemic in 2021, and currently lives in what is described and marketed as a “luxurious high-rise apartment” in Los Angeles. Yet, now she makes reputation-mending proclamations in her videos saying things like she “will be donating a percentage of [her] AdSense on all videos going forward to a charity [she] works with and really admires,” (Walsh, L., 2021). However, what charity or what specific percentage she was going to donate remains unknown. 

With regards to her mother, Lori Loughlin. Even during the midst of the scandal, People Magazine was still writing articles such as “How ‘Fuller House’ Star Lori Loughlin Maintains Her Incredible Abs,” writing that “she’s not afraid to admit, “a big part of it is genetics,” (Calderone, 2020). America’s infatuation with Lori Laughlin beauty has been constant for decades because “the 53-year-old actress practically looks the same as she did when we first fell in love with her in 1987 on Full House,” (Behar, 2018). Olivia Jade has the same genetics and   like her mother, therefore “clearly demonstrating that a prevalent judgmental bias favoring physically attractive people exists; they are viewed as more sociable, more intelligent, better adjusted, and more desirable as romantic partners,” (Smith et al., 1999).


Through the lens of someone who lives a lavish and privileged life like Olivia Jade, thinking about food waste might not be her top priority, but she has influence over her 1.4 million Instagram followers, (Walsh, S., 2021). When looking throughout the nation at initiatives such as waste tracking and using smaller plates, the Rethink Food Waste group in New York City has identified “$1.9 billion is business profit potential through food waste solutions specific to restaurants,” (Pulido, 2023). At the collegiate level, LSU has started Zero Waste Initiatives including their Pre-Consumer Organic Recycling Initiative. Their Campus Sustainability committee has partnered with LSU Dining “to send all pre-consumer / clean kitchen food scraps to farms for animal feed, rather than to landfill,” (LSU Sustainability, 2023). All dining halls on  LSU’s campus are currently participating, and they have estimated that about 75 tons of food waste is diverted per year, and does not end up in the landfill because of this program. Additionally, this means that 29.82 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been diverted since LSU started composting kitchen waste in April 2018.

In 2019, Olivia Jade’s college admissions scandal at the University of Southern California aired, but from 2014 to present day she has maintained a very large social media following on Instagram and Youtube. She is also not a stranger to good food, as she would post what I eat in a day vlogs featuring not only organic food from a farmers market, but she would also order food from some of Los Angeles’ yummiest restaurants. Yet, in these videos she never described knowing about where her food came from and the amount of money and effort that goes into the agriculture industry for food to inevitably be wasted. To redeem her scandal at USC, why not use her influence for good and have the school replicate LSU initiative and help eliminate Los Angeles food waste problem. Through implementing this, she could have this initiative get started at other universities, such as Tulane and Loyola, making it so more of New Orleans’ food waste get sustainably reallocated. 

Reallocating food waste is a realistic and tangible way for local businesses and restaurants to combat food waste and turn it into aid to assist the people of New Orleans that go hungry each year. Olivia Jade has become very philanthropic since the College admission scandal, and recently help to support Los Angeles’ Women’s Cancer Research Fund Benefit. Olivia could use her valuable knowledge to coordinate with local non-profits like  “RescueRunner [which] is a volunteer-based service in New Orleans that picks up extra food and prepared meals from anyone in the food service industry and delivers them to local shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries,” (LifeCity, 2021). This could be a very sustainable option for lots of restaurants in New Orleans, especially if the excess food produced by the service industry is inedible, “composting redirects food from landfills into the environment. Local composting and recovery services,” such as drop off spots for your compost all around the city sanctioned by the New Orleans Food Policy Action Council (LifeCity, 2021).

Olivia could also be very beneficial in this sector because she has to compost where she lives in Los Angeles, so she can help share her skills. Digeasy is a non-profit that was started in a community garden in the Bayou St. John neighborhood and their goal is to have their staff pick up food waste for free from local cafes and turn it into compost soil. Yet, Digeasy’s Main purpose is to “educate the public through free compost training courses and online tutorials,” (Haggerty, 2019) By having all the restaurants, or at least most, in New Orleans band together and create a way for them to either donate or compost their excess food, we could help limit hunger and stop food from ending up in landfills. It is possible for restaurants to set legitimate goals that could help them be more sustainable, and less wasteful overall. A really accessible and thought through idea is to have compost drop off bins around neighborhoods in New Orleans so individuals can help with community gardens, teach valuable lessons about composting to new generations, and make it so food waste does not end up in landfills.

Olivia would be great at promoting this because she knows as a Los Angeles resident the “all L.A. Sanitation residents can also receive a free kitchen pail to store their food scraps for weekly collection,” and making compost pails free for each home in New Orleans would not financially inhibit any of its residents, (Chow, 2023).  Additionally, when food arrives at restaurants in New Orleans, having a methodical way that will ensure that food was checked for quality and was delivered in the right quantity is vital as well. Through influencers that have knowledge and access to good food and sustainable amounts, as well as large social media followings like Olivia Jade, they can help influence large amounts of people to download apps like Too Good To Go which helps to try and eliminate food waste when restaurants have excess food they want to sell at the end of the day.


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