College campuses throw away 22 million pounds of uneaten food each year, often because they do not know the exact number of people who will be eating in their cafeterias every day. While some institutions, including Notre Dame, have started working with lean systems to get a better sense of what types of food people are eating and how much, food waste is still an issue. According to Recycling Works, the average college student generates 142 pounds of food waste annually.
Recognizing and wanting to address the issue of food waste on the University of Notre Dame’s campus, an ad hoc committee formed to discuss possible solutions. Members of this committee included people from ND Campus Dining, the Sustainability minor, and other relevant campus organizations. From the outset, they did not want to have the University own the project; rather, they wanted to find a company who already had a solution to redistribute food waste into the community and partner with them. The intention is that a Notre Dame student takes over the project and gets it going on campus. Once this is done, a community member will take over. Because students are only here for nine months out of the year, it makes more sense for a permanent resident of South Bend to be in charge.
One program that was considered, and eventually adopted, is Food Rescue US. Food Rescue US is a national, non-profit program with the goal of ending food insecurity in the U.S. To address this issue, Food Rescue US has created a smartphone app that facilitates the transfer of leftover food to organizations, such as shelters, that need it. Volunteers sign up for shifts online to transport the donated food to receiving agencies. Once the delivery is completed, they are able to provide feedback through the app, allowing users to keep track of how much food is being rescued in the community. Notre Dame is the first university to partner with Food Rescue US.
Notre Dame Dining Services is working with Food Rescue US to redistribute on-campus food waste to the South Bend community. Today, the rate of food insecurity in St. Joseph County in Indiana is 16%. Redistributing food waste to those in need is a simple yet powerful solution to help aid in the fight against hunger in our own community. Food Rescue US delivers food from businesses that have too much to people who have too little through their volunteer-driven, direct-transfer model. The organization works with local food donors and hunger relief agencies to create an ongoing food rescue schedule, which is then made available to local volunteers on the mobile app. The beauty of the app is that it allows last-minute food runs not on the schedule to be added. Volunteers sign up for food rescues through the app. They then drive their own vehicles to pick up food from the donor and drop it off at hunger relief agencies that distribute the food to the hungry. Since its inception in 2011, Food Rescue US volunteers have transferred 11.8 million meals worth $30.7 billion dollars to people in need.
Food insecurity is a serious issue that millions of Americans face every single day. By redistributing the 40% of annual food waste to those in need, the number of Americans going to bed hungry each night can be reduced. Colleges and universities across the country are now realizing just how much food is thrown away in dining halls. As explored in my capstone, several organizations like Food Rescue US, The Food Recovery Network, and The Campus Kitchens Project have formed to combat food waste. While each is structured differently, they share a common purpose of ending food insecurity in the United States.