Published July 02, 2019 by Rebecca Goldfine

Reducing Food Waste and Helping Farmers: Two Green Internships

Two of Bowdoin's ninety-seven funded interns this summer are working for technology start-ups focused on the environment.

They both have grants worth up to $5,000 from the College's funded internship program, which gives students the financial freedom to pursue unpaid internships and explore career paths.

 Waste Not, Want Not: Eliminating Food Waste

Caroline Kranefuss ’20
Caroline Kranefuss ’20 with the food waste scale she is helping to design. She has a Robert S. Goodfriend Summer Internship Award this summer to intern at Phood.

At her mechanical engineering internship with Phood in Boston this summer, Caroline Kranefuss ’20 is using her physics skills to help the company reduce food waste.

Throwing out food is a social problem—and an environmental one. Every day, forty percent of food across the US is thrown away—which means the energy that went into making it is also wasted. Meanwhile, roughly twelve percent of families in the country can't afford to feed themselves consistently.

Working with big kitchens at universities and other institutions, Phood offers technology to help cooks anticipate how much food to prepare on any given day. It outfits kitchens with an on-site system that includes a scale to measure uneaten food, a monitor to track how much—and what type—of food is scrapped, and an app to display food analytics.

One of Kranefuss's jobs is to help advance the design of the scale. "I'm working to revamp and redesign the product based on feedback from current customers," she said. So she’s creating prototypes and computer designs of the product and communicating with manufacturers about the company’s needs.

After interning at another start-up last summer that designs and prints 3-D models for plastic and reconstructive surgery, Kranefuss scouted for another youngish company to work for this summer.

"I really love being able to have a meaningful impact on the future of a company and to have the ability to do lots of different things on any given day," she said.

Kranefuss's goal is to one day work as a biomedical engineer (ideally in Portland, Maine, a city the New Jersey-born student has grown to love). "I started out as a biochemistry major and then moved into physics, which has made me think about how the two fields intersect," she said.

 From Farm to Table, Via the Internet

Emilia Majersik
Emilia Majersik with fresh strawberries at the Portland Food Coop, one of Forager’s users

Emilia Majersik ’22 is working for the technology start-up Forager in Portland, Maine, which is building an online platform to streamline sales between small-scale farmers and wholesale retailers, including food co-ops, regional grocery stores, and restaurants. Its mission is to make sourcing local food easier for food businesses. 

Majersik found a listing for the internship on Bowdoin's job and internship database, placed by one of the two Bowdoin alumni who work at Forager—Michael Yang ’14 and Joe Blunda ’03. 

A rising sophomore, Majersik said she's interested in studying environmental studies and economics, and learning how technology can solve environmental problems. After attending a career event at Bowdoin this past year on technology and social change, she was inspired this summer to seek out a "tech start-up for good." 

Though Forager is based in Portland, it works with farms around the country. Farmers update the site when they have vegetables and other goods ready to sell. Food vendors use the site to purchase local products from any number of farms, making all their orders, delivery arrangements, and payments online. 

"It frees up farmers' time. And on the grocers' end, it brings efficiency," Majersik said, adding that farmers have reported an increase in sales as well.

In her internship, she's learning new software, such as SQL, as well as doing marketing and customer outreach, like coaching older farmers on how to use the system. She and the other interns will also soon launch a social media effort to profile some of the growers using the service, "which will be fun," she said, since it will entail visits to local farms.

"I've learned a lot about Maine and the agricultural sector here," she said. "Also, Maine doesn't have a huge tech industry, so it's been cool to be in a company helping to start that."