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    Philabundance’s Kait Bowdler Says Hunger is a Green Issue

    Kait Bowdler may be the Director of Sustainability at Philabundance, but environmentalism hasn’t always been her thing.

    “The big secret is I don’t have a degree in sustainability. That’s not necessarily the way I came to this world, so there are a lot of people that know a lot more about this topic than I do.”

    She’s being modest, of course. During her short time at Philabundance, she’s almost single-handedly pioneered the Abundantly Good food brand.

    Kait Bowdler Philabundance

    Courtesy of LinkedIn

    UPCYCLING: AN EXPLANATION  

    To break it down, the Abundantly Good initiative upcycles surplus farm products and turns them into retail items, to cut down on food waste while feeding those in need. Specifically, that’s meant using struggling Pennsylvania farmers’ abundance of milk to make delicious gourmet cheese. Local vendors like Dibruno Brothers and The Common Market then sell that cheese, using the profits to fund the production of even more cheese that’s then donated to Philadelphians experiencing hunger.

    It’s a win-win-win. Abundantly Good supports local farmers, tackles local food insecurity with healthy products, and cuts down on food waste (which is pretty huge: 40% of all food produced in the U.S. is wasted annually). From a sustainability perspective, that means decreasing the massive amounts of greenhouses emitted during every step of the food process, from agriculture to production to distribution to disposal.

    Abundantly Good Cheese

    Courtesy of Philbundance

    The project’s also expanding. Bowdler just launched a new Spiced Tomato Jam line, made with TBJ Gourmet and following the same model as Abundantly Good’s cheese line.

    All this would be impressive on its own, but get this: Bowdler is a one-person department. Her position at Philabundance was created solely to get this project off the ground, and she had to work from scratch, without much guidance.

    “It definitely was challenging, but a year and a half in, I think it’s been really successful and I think organizationally we’re figuring out how it all fits.”

    THE NEW CHARITY MODEL

    Bowdler has never been one to shy away from challenges. Growing up in Lower Moreland, she was a textbook overachiever. She was a girl scout for “way too long” in her words (through junior year of high school), volunteered, and participated in sports.

    She also always had a passion for helping others, inspired by her mother’s work in speech pathology. This led her to study political science at the University of Pittsburgh until she realized that bureaucracy wasn’t her path.

    “It moves too slowly for me and I really wanted to be involved with people and have that direct connection,” she said.

    Instead, she turned her talents toward relieving hunger. From 2010 to 2013, she worked at the Campus Kitchen Project, a non-profit division of DC Central Kitchen that recovers food from on-campus dining facilities and re-purposes that food into over 100,000 quality meals for the community every year.

    Kait Bowdler DC Central Kitchen

    Kait at a DC Central Kitchen event in 2014 / Courtesy of Modern Luxury

    For her, the appeal of working in the nonprofit sector is the opportunity to turn the old charity model on its head. Traditionally, nonprofits can’t start new projects until they somehow procure the money they need from generous funders. As Bowlder said,

    “It shouldn’t be like that. We can learn from businesses. We can find our own funding, we can be advocates in the community, we can organize, we can make an impact.”

    In typical overachiever fashion, Bowdler left her rewarding non-profit job in 2014 to pursue a new challenge: the Peace Corps. But after two years in Macedonia working with a center for people with special needs, she’s back to the work she knows and loves at Philabundance, this time with a sustainable edge.

    “It is such a funny thing, how I came to sustainability. To me, it’s about efficiency. It’s about this idea that there are multiple problems out there and sometimes nonprofits, we tend to just focus on one.”

    GROWING AND LEARNING

    Abundantly Good, on the other hand, operates to meet a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. And already, Bowdler’s role at Philabundance has grown to include a second project. Grocers Against Hunger, a program that rescues retail from grocery stores in nine surrounding counties, is being streamlined to fall under Bowdler’s department.

    Grocers Against Hunger

    GIANT donates through Grocers Against Hunger in 2016 / Courtesy of  Haverford Patch 

    Even if the activities remain the same, sustainability initiatives at Philabundance will continue to improve and expand. Bowdler is considering how technology can be integrated in their operations, and of course, how things can run more efficiently.

    For someone new to sustainability, Bowdler is making a big impact. As of June, sales have enabled $9,000 to be contributed toward the rescue and processing of excess milk into donated cheese. Still, she’s as modest as ever.

    “Do we have all the answers? Are we going to ever be an environmental organization first? No, but can we have an impact there? I think the answer’s yes.”

    Kait is always looking to learn how Philabundance can be more sustainable and work with other green causes in Philly! If you or your organization want to connect, you can reach her at sustainability@philabundance.org.




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    Brianna Baker

    About Brianna Baker

    Brianna is a senior journalism major Temple University. While studying abroad in Fall 2017, she interned at WHERE Rome magazine, and has also worked for Baltimore STYLE, QWERTY Philly, and student publications like Templar, The Temple News and 14th Street. In addition to writing, she loves re-watching her favorite sitcoms, going to concerts, and doing yoga (when she’s not feeling too lazy).

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