PR students' campaign helps raise awareness of food waste in the Centre Region

Taylor Quintano and Danielle Dunoff
June 02, 2020

Just weeks prior to Penn State’s graduation and amidst a global pandemic, public relations students in Assistant Teaching Professor Tara Wyckoff’s COMM 473 class worked remotely to fulfill their semester-long commitment to deliver a robust communications campaign centered around food waste awareness to Centre Region Council of Government (CRCOG).

Student works remotely on a senior capstone project to develop a marketing campaign to increase awareness of food waste in Centre County

Danielle Dunoff, Ad/PR, '20, collaborates remotely with fellow students on a senior capstone project through Tara Wyckoff's COMM 473 class. The project involved researching, creating and delivering a PR campaign to increase awareness of food waste in Centre County. The project was one of 34 projects completed with the Sustainability Institute's Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC), where Penn State classes partner with community organizations to solve problems and advance sustainability efforts. 

IMAGE: Taylor Dunoff

The class was connected to the project through the Sustainable Communities Collaborative (SCC), a program of Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, which pairs Penn State classes with local community partners to solve sustainability issues while offering students valuable professional experience.

In conjunction with CRCOG, students in COMM 473 launched a multi-faceted, multi-media campaign: “Learn More. Waste Less. Eat Well.” The campaign engages with the local community to help solve the ongoing problem of misconceptions around food waste. 

According to researchers at Penn State’s College of Agriculture, more than one-third of the food the American household acquires is wasted, costing the average family $1,866 and the U.S. $240 billion per year.

“Food waste is such a surprisingly large contributor to greenhouse gases that reducing food waste can help us achieve our regional sustainability targets,” said Shelly Mato, administrator for the CRCOG Refuse and Recycle Program. “Learning to discard less usable food helps us live better by wasting less money, eating better because we know how to buy and store fresh foods and making us more respectful of where our food comes from.”

The students reached out to the Centre County community in hopes to change their views and actions towards food waste. The students focused on facts, tips and resources to help residents better understand how to make the most of their food. Applying their public relations skills in strategic communication, media relations and social media messaging, the students then provided their client, CRCOG, with an integrated campaign featuring a website of resources and social engagement around #foodwastefriday. The launch of the campaign came at an especially relevant time, when grocery shopping habits have changed and the constraints on family finances are heightened due to the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“This group met the challenge of this project with great success, despite the need to complete their work remotely during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Ilona Ballreich, program manager for the Sustainable Communities Collaborative. “I look forward to seeing the impact of the campaign throughout the community.”  

Tess Kossoff a senior studying advertising and public relations, shared her reflections on the project. “The senior capstone project [has] provided us with the unique opportunity to have a hands-on learning experience by working with an actual client to solve real world issues. The hard work we have put into our semester long campaign emphasizing the benefits of food waste reduction is even more meaningful because it can actually bring about positive change to the Centre County community and benefit the environment.”

COMM 473 was one of 34 classes to participate in the Sustainable Communities Collaborative during the spring semester. Faculty and students from across all disciplines worked in partnership with community organizations to deliver projects and solutions related to stormwater mitigation, solar energy, opioid addiction, workplace ethics, facilities reuse, economic development and much more. A variety of project presentations, posters and videos can be viewed via the SCC Spring Virtual Expo, open now.

Last Updated June 04, 2020