California Teen Reduces Food Waste through “Zero Waste Initiative” Volunteerism

Daily Point of Light # 7113 Sep 3, 2021

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Amita Ramanujan. Read her story and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Food waste occurs at every level of the supply chain, and is a stress on the environment and economy, says Amita Ramanujan. When the 15-year-old Irvine, California student decided she wanted to give back to her community, Amita focused her service on reducing food waste.

As a volunteer with Zero Waste Initiative, Amita is helping to save nutritious food on a daily basis for the more than one in ten families that experience food insecurity. Zero Waste Initiative receives donations from restaurants, bakeries and cafes they in turn donate to community partners, rescuing more than $100,000 worth of food waste thus far. Through volunteerism, Amita is helping to feed hungry members of her community.

What inspires you to volunteer?

COVID-19 caused a lot of financial instability for people, putting them in even harsher circumstances and increasing the number of people who needed help. I felt driven to do my part for my community to reduce some of the suffering caused by food shortage, a problem we commonly take for granted.

Describe your volunteerism with the Zero Waste Initiative.

As vice-president of volunteer operations, I pick up bagel donations three times a week and drop the donations off at community non-profits including Salvation Army, Power of One Foundation, Family Forwards, Human Options, Lighthouse Outreach Center and Orange County Rescue Mission. I also help Zero Waste Initiative to expand their opportunities through social media and getting more volunteers involved. Reducing food waste doesn’t even have to be done in a big way, the little ways always help. Examples include not wasting food when you go to a restaurant, or don’t overbuy at the grocery store and leave food in the fridge that you have to throw out.

Amita Ramanujan Daily Point of Light Award Honoree
Amita Ramanujan is volunteering with Zero Waste Initiative to reduce food waste in her community./Courtesy Amita Ramanujan

Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.

When I first started picking up bagels, I entered the store and saw workers putting bagels into large trash bags. It put into perspective for me how much is going to waste, instead of going to people who could use it. It’s heartwarming to see hard-working volunteers from our community getting together to distribute food and help people in need. Their service is a reminder that we’re not alone.

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?

As a community, it’s always important to give back so we don’t take anything for granted. Having access to food is a privilege that most people aren’t as privileged to have. It’s our duty to volunteer.

What does the future of your volunteerism look like?

Now that I’m aware of how many people are in need of help, I’m very motivated to continue with this initiative, even after COVID-19. Reducing food waste can provide great relief to people.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

There are many people in need of help right now. It’s important that we all do our part in giving back, even if it’s just a little. Maybe one week, you donate a can of food you’re not using, even that’s a great help to someone who needs it.

In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?


When you’re not busy with volunteering, what do you do for fun?

I hang out with my friends.

How can readers help?

Please visit our website for more information about how you can help.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Amita Ramanujan? Find local volunteer opportunities.


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