Food Waste and Galway Through the Eyes of Foróige Youth

Growing up in Galway, Foróige Youth members Mark O’Boyle and Benjamin “Benji” Hopley provide insight into the city that the James Madison University study abroad group would otherwise not have.

Mark, 17, and Benji, 16, both live in Ballybane, an area east of the city. They each make the trek to the Foróige Youth Café in order to take part in the organization’s programs, including the week in which James Madison University’s media arts study abroad group came to work with the younger teenagers. During their first day with the college students, the boys decided to join the storytelling team. This seemed to be the most natural fit as the two boys share a common passion for writing.

Mark O’Boyle Photo by Drew Herbert

“I do sometimes like writing stories, but I don’t get time to do that,” Mark said of his interest in writing. Earlier in the week, when asked about why they chose the group they did, they had talked about the story they thought up together. Both are interested in high fantasy and bonded over all the ideas they hope to turn into a book series when they’re older. Although the storytelling group of the JMU project didn’t involve creative writing, they were still interested in seeing how the group would be conducting interviews and writing feature stories. Because of their choice in grouping, the boys were then tasked with joining the storytellers while conducting a survey about food waste in Galway. Throughout this experience, the boys got to help conduct some of the surveys and see the collaborative process when creating the questions and format. Then, at the end of the week with JMU, the boys were asked questions about themselves, as well as how they see food waste in their homes, their small community, and greater Galway

Seeing as how the topic for all of the JMU study abroad students was food waste, all of the Foróige members developed an understanding of the issue throughout the week. The problem, by its most simple definition, is that good food, food that could otherwise be eaten, is being thrown out by grocery stores, homes, and restaurants. This becomes problematic when one considers just how much trash sits in dump sites around the world, and also how many people go hungry each day. However, when asked about the problem, the boys both say that they don’t see much of it within their own community.

“Food waste can be a big issue in some cases,” Mark concedes. Both he and Benji believe that the city of Galway is more aware of the problem compared to larger cities, but still understand that the policies of their home county are not perfect. For example, Benji recalls one of the cafes that he surveyed along with the team of JMU students.

“We were at, like, a coffee place and they said that if the coffee is not up to standard, they just throw it away,” Benji said. Mark agrees with this, saying that the biggest issue for the restaurants themselves is the cost of wasting food, but still having to do it anyway to please their customers. While they acknowledge this being an issue, the two then go on to talk about how food waste is not much of a problem within their own homes.

Benji Hopley Photo by Drew Herbert

“I kind of just throw it in the bin. That’s what normally happens,” Benji says when asked what gets done with uneaten or leftover food. Mark gives the same answer, adding that his family has a composter.

“The composter— my brother got it so we can get better soil. So the food bin can be dumped in there sometimes.” Mark mentions this only briefly, also adding that the family uses it only for the soil itself, not to grow their own food at home. Benji, on the other hand, says that while he does have a compost bin, food goes in the regular trash more often. This may also have to do with the types of meals the boys eat, their answers in stark contrast to one another’s. 

“My family does eat together when dinner is ready,” Mark says when asked about his family of six’s meal habits. He said that the types of food they eat are “a mix of different stuff,” and also that his mother mostly cooks dinner. With this, one can conclude that his family’s lower production of food waste is due to his larger family size and how they eat freshly prepared together. Benji, on the other hand, comes from a smaller family with vastly different eating habits.

When asked about whether or not his family cooks and eats together, Benji says “on special occasions, and stuff like Christmas dinner. Very rarely otherwise. Sometimes … my brother or me would cook the dinner, we would just get, like, a plate and go into the cinema room and watch TV and eat that way. We don’t really eat together, like, at the table.” Benji, unlike Mark, eats quick meals in a far more informal environment. He says frozen pizza is a staple in his home, and notes that most food that doesn’t get eaten during these meals gets thrown out.

While food waste in general has been made an issue by bigger businesses and governmental policies, it is heartening to see how Benji and Mark have been conscious about food waste within their own homes. There may not be a global impact from their choosing to compost what they are their families don’t eat, both of them speak as though they are willing to cut back on their own food waste to be environmentally friendly. It is apparent that learned quite a bit about the issue just from going out and conducting surveys, a small change that can help make a difference in the way Galway’s food waste is managed by its citizens.

Morgan Grant