New Campus Initiative Connects Students with Free Food

The United States creates more food waste than any other country on the globe. According to Recycle Track Systems, the U.S. is responsible for discarding 60 million tons of food annually. Screenshot from @bonappetitusf on Instagram

Eighty million tons of food are wasted in the United States each year – that’s 149 billion meals. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reducing food waste is important for the environment, as food conservation preserves energy and resources, while benefiting businesses, suppliers and households.

Bon Appetit and USF Events Services make a conscious effort to eliminate food waste, utilizing attendance estimates and to-go containers. They also partner with local charitable organizations, including the Food Recovery Network, USF Food Pantry, church ministries, and Chefs to End Hunger. Ultimately, any remaining uneaten food is composted.

Now, the USF Dean of Students Office alongside Student Leadership and Engagement has a new plan to mitigate USF’s food waste. They have implemented a notification system to alert students about free food on campus, available via the USF Mobile App. 

Over winter break, the USF Information and Technology Services (ITS) tested the system with a pilot program of students, which included a thorough review of the new system.

This initiative will allow event organizers to send out a notification via the app to students who have opted in. The alert will either extend an invitation to an event with free food, or will share where food can be picked up after an event. 

The idea for the new system was born in an ASUSF Senate Town Hall hosted during the fall semester. A small group of students discussing food insecurity expressed support for the concept, but the ITS department, and the students who work there, made it a reality, according to Lester Deanes, the Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement.

“Bon Appetit and EMGS [Events Management and Guest Services] have been key partners in the project from the beginning,” Deanes said. “They have been focused on maintaining food safety standards and supporting the catering department employees to ensure the proposed system does not add any additional burden to their team.”

Junior biology major Camryn Hissen said, “I think it’s a good idea. It makes sure that students have food to eat, and maybe they’ll even end up going to events they otherwise wouldn’t have gone to.”

Richard Hsu, the Sustainability Coordinator at the USF Office of Sustainability, said that food waste contributes to “a small but not insignificant portion of the University’s carbon footprint.” “Food waste, as opposed to food scrap, is likely around 10% of landfilled compostable waste, so it contributes less than 1% of the university’s reported emissions,” Hsu said.

Reducing food waste not only contributes to the minimizing of the University’s carbon footprint, but being able to funnel excess food to those in need corresponds with Jesuit philanthropic values

“Combating food waste by recovering and donating surplus food helps to feed the hungry and fight climate change, both of which align with our mission and reflect our values as a social justice focused institution,” said Hsu.

In order to sign up to receive notifications regarding free food on campus, you must first download USFMobile and respond to a brief poll. All notifications will be sent exclusively through the app.

Editor-in-Chief: Megan Robertson, Chief Copy Editor: Sophia Siegel, Managing Editor: Jordan Premmer, News Editor: Niki Sedaghat 

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