America’s Food Waste: Perfect Solutions to an Imperfect Problem

Trip to compost bin

Currently, approximately one-third of food produced worldwide goes to waste each year. In a world where 1.2 billion people are either food insecure or undernourished, we must begin to look towards solutions. In the United States, it is estimated that about 40% of produced food goes to waste. However, getting food from the farm to people’s plates consumes 10% of the US energy budget, 50% of the land, and 80% of the freshwater.

Recently, the Huffington Post has started a campaign to bring to light the massive amount of food waste that currently exists in America while highlighting ways to be less wasteful and more sustainable. This campaign has been named “Reclaim”, and the goal is to re-connect American’s to their food and its production. There are many ways to do this, and several countries worldwide have already begun to change the way they look at food.

One way the average citizen can do this is by signing a petition asking Wal-Mart to sell imperfect produce. According to, around 25% of produce is wasted before it even gets to the grocery store for no reason other than it looking different from what consumers are used to and perhaps conditioned to buying. Last year, a similar petition was presented to Whole Foods resulting in the company changing their policy and beginning to offer misshapen or otherwise marked fruits and vegetables at a discounted price. With Wal-Mart being one of the largest retailers in the United States, the adoption of a similar policy could make a huge difference in the amount of produce Americans waste.

There is an international precedent for both creating this kind of petition and selling imperfect produce. In 2014, the European Union declared the year of Food Waste, and began imploring its member countries research and use practices that would lead to an overall reduction in food waste. The French supermarket chain Intermarché responded with its “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign. This campaign sold imperfect produce at a discount, as well as soups and juices made from those vegetables, in an effort to show consumers that there truly is no difference. The results were astounding and stores were reporting a 24% increase in store traffic.

Additionally, British supermarket giant Tesco has also begun to sell “wonky” vegetables, through their campaign “Perfectly Imperfect”, which, like its French counterpart, sells odd looking, non-standard vegetables at a discount to encourage consumers to stop overlooking them. Tesco has gone one step further in curbing food waste, by donating surplus food to charity through a program called the Community Food Connection.

The Community Food Connection links Tesco stores to local food charities, in a mutually beneficial relationship. Tesco is wasting significantly less food, the pilot program generated more than 50,000 meals for the needy, and food charities are able to further stretch their budgets. In the United States, Trader Joe’s has a similar policy; individual stores have a donations coordinator who functions as a liaison between the stores and local food banks and soup kitchens to donate food that is safe for consumption, but for some reason not fit for sale.

Food waste continues to be a significant problem not only in the United States, but also internationally. Presently, it appears that other countries, particularly those within the European Union are vigorously tackling this problem and focusing on more sustainable practices and solutions. However, at this time, it appears that the United States has fallen behind again. Hopefully, over the next several weeks, the Huffington Post in conjunction with other media sources, can help bring to light the massive food waste in this country and help us begin to find solutions.

Intimate Partner Violence; It is a Major Issue!

By Angela Codner, Elaine Hannah, Donna Martin, & Remeca Tomlin


The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) (2011) most recent study on domestic violence found that in the United States, 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) have been victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and approximately 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have been victims at some point in their lifetime of severe physical violence by an intimate partner.

It is also important to understand that the recorded statistics may be understated due to male victims not reporting their abuse. Despite the current prevalent statistics which shows that men are victimized almost as much as women, more emphasis and focus is still placed on female victims by society, the media, and the government.


Unfortunately, there is a lack of intervention programs, support services, resources, or evidence based practices for male victims of domestic violence (Barber, 2008). Very little research efforts have been dedicated to the benefit of male victims of violence. The reason for the lack of research is due primarily to lack of funding.

Unfortunately, the resources are very limited for male victims of IPV.  At the National level, there are a couple of options available to male victims. One option is the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH). NDVH is available to individuals with questions regarding domestic violence or questions about finding available resources. Another option is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) The Act was first enacted in 1994 has been reauthorized in 2005 and 2013 to incorporate gender-neutral coverage to all its victims including men.

What Can Social Workers Do? 

Awareness is a key step to prevention. Its increased efforts should include men who are also  suffering from domestic abuse. It is vital to educate the public to report abusive behaviors. The earlier the intervention the less likely victimization will occur.

With Intimate Partner Violence, awareness is just one of the issues. The main issue lies with creating more resources, programs, and funding to support this population when crisis arise. Individualized care for this population should be a huge priority. Social workers should be made aware of the epidemic toward this population and be more empathetic to their needs.

We are students passionate about empowering people and we’ve started this campaign to give a voice to those who don’t have one. #‎outofyourshadow

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Top 4 Ways to Improve #SocialWork


Recently, I wrote an article entitled, The Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing, which has become one of the most read and searched for articles on Social Work Helper since its inception. Whether you agree or disagree with my reasons, we all can agree that social work has some serious issues that must be addressed in order to improve outcomes for social workers as well as the perceptions of our profession with the public. Social work institutions are not providing adequate resources or responses to assist social work students and practitioners engaging or who want to engage in grassroots organizing, social justice advocacy, and public policy reforms.

Part of the job of a social worker is to assess and define the problem, but the other part of our job is to look for interventions to implement in order to limit the effects of the problem while adding protective factors to help increase outcomes. In an effort to be solution focused, I went on search to find actionable interventions that we could implement without needing an “Act of Congress” to get the ball moving. Social workers are the first responders to society’s social problems because we engage people from birth to death in all aspects of their life.

As a social worker, I have counseled an oil executive whose life was failing apart, an engineer after an all night drinking bender, a school teacher contemplating suicide, a man who has taken his family hostage at gun point, and a woman who was shot by her partner to name a few. Pain is universal, and it is not limited by socioeconomic boundaries which is why its imperative for social workers to be apart of the conversations developing public policy.

For Students 

As a future practitioner, you will not be able to work in a vacuum which means you will have to interact with other disciplines in order to be effective in practice. However, social work students rarely interact with disciplines outside of their programs or with social work students from other schools. By working in concert with other disciplines at the higher learning level, we are our best examples of how social work skills translate into other areas.

RICNDue to our isolative nature, what opportunities are we not taking advantage of that will serve us later in the workforce? It’s great to have social work clubs and organizations to increase collaborations within our profession, but it is also equally important to form partnerships and collaborations outside of the profession.

For students, I recommend seeking out the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network at your university, or starting a chapter if your university does not have one.

According the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Website,

Campus Network develops local laboratories of democracy and policy experimentation where young people can work with community members to innovate, scale, and replicate the best ideas and policy initiatives emerging from our generation.Students have changed policies around predatory lending; established a tax fund in New Haven capable of sending every high-school graduate to college tuition free; and even included an automatic healthcare enrollment policy in the Affordable Care Act. Read More

Don’t miss out on available workshops, fellowships, and connections with community partners because you are afraid to step outside of our social work bubble.

For Practitioners

In school, most of the time, you have access to a support system through your professors, peers, and other services. However, once you enter the profession, it feels like your professional support system diminishes. Many schools don’t dump a lot of resources into developing strong and thriving alumni networks in order to maintain connections to former students that will allow us to interact with each other. Many social workers, especially those on the lower end pay spectrum, may not be able to afford access to a professional association membership or costs for conferences to gain those connections.

alumnifyMany social workers have turned to social media in attempt to forge those connections, but most would prefer an option for these connections to be an extension of their university community. Social media constructs like Linkedin are not designed for you to connect with each other within a Linkedin Group. How do you find alumni in your area when you are looking for a mentor or trying to expand your network for possible employment opportunities?

For practitioners, I recommend to request that your School of Social Work add an Alumnify Network for its graduates.

According to the Alumnify Website:

Alumnify will give alumni the ability to sign in with LinkedIn and receive data on their professional career and interests. It will allow graduates to find each other in their immediate area, making it as easy as possible to grab coffee and network. Alumnify also provides interactive and modern data that helps universities reach your alumni and understand them like never before. Read More

Currently, Schools of Social Work are making important school policies based on a couple of  hundred surveys they can get people to answer. Alumni get tired of the robocalls and email requests only they want something, and we begin to tune them after the second year we leave school. Why wouldn’t they implement a mutually beneficial system which could be free to users or for a modest fee to offset cost?

For Schools of Social Work

If we are going to advance our profession, we need to be engaging in the national conversations and social issues of our day. Social Workers are attempting to find ways to do this on their own, but utilizing social media improperly can have the opposite intended effect. Earlier this month, I wrote another article on how to reduce risks to employment when using social media where I stated,

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As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training.

Agencies, associations, and social work faculty can not adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet their social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels. Read More

Social Workers should be engaging in national awareness campaigns which can provide many opportunities to showcase our areas of practice and engagement on social policy issues.  Schools of Social Work should be leading the charge, and when used properly, these could become valuable marketing tools for your university while engaging community stakeholders.

If anyone is interested, take a photo or do a vine using the hashtags #TurnOutForWhat and #SocialWork telling why you are turning out to vote on November 4th. Then, tweet to @swhelpercom, share on SWH Facebook Fan Page, or tag me on instagram. I will be happy to share and promote the issues that you care about.

Learn How to Use Twitter Effectively

When I first started blogging, twitter was the number one tool I used to connect with people. In turn, I credit Twitter as the number one factor in growing Social Work Helper’s readership. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter does not place limits on who you can follow, who can follow you, or who you can tweet to.

If you decide to tweet a member of Congress or parliament, you may actually get a tweet back. Some of my twitter highlights include a tweet from the Oprah Winfrey Network and being retweeted by the US Department of Labor and Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union.

As an individual, you don’t have to wait until #socialwork get its act together and do a better job at promoting the profession. This is something that we can start doing today.

Post Partum Depression Can Be a Child Protection Issue

Post partum depression (PPD) occurs in about 20 – 25% of women after giving birth. Some level of the “baby blues” might well occur in larger numbers. The risks of PPD are that women can then go on to experience longer term depression or, in a small number of cases, go on to post partum psychosis. The latter can often be quite dangerous as it can include risks of suicide and homicide. It tends to be a psychiatric emergency.

pregnantPPD has the potential to interfere with the attachment process between mother and child. It can reduce the mother’s desire to interact with the baby and to provide stimulation (physical and emotional).

The good news is that it is highly treatable. A review by The Cochrane Library has shown that some very simple interventions can make a significant difference.

The piece of their extensive review showed that one intervention that is simple to manage and effective is peer support. Simply having someone touch base and ask, “How are you doing?” makes a difference. In essence, it is someone who just cares, is there and allows for the expression of a mother’s true feelings. This can be a major preventative tool that reduces PPD. The Cochrane review found this to be the case.

The research also found that home visits by such people as community nurses are beneficial. Interpersonal psychotherapy was also valuable.

When we reduce PPD, we improve the situation for families which in turn will reduce the need for child protection intervention. What is most appealing about the results of this research is that we do not need to build new and elaborate programs. Peer or lay support by phone works. Keeping up with nursing post delivery visits work. And, when needed, access to basic mental health support.

We should also be mindful that recent research suggests that post partum depression may have an onset up to two years after birth. There is also data indicating that fathers can also suffer from depression after the birth of a baby. Untreated there is a real risk of abuse or neglect.

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