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College Food Recovery

  Americans throw out and waste about 40% of the food we prepare daily and recovering more food on college campuses helps train young people to be more aware of the issue. 

Back in 2010, three college students noticed a huge amount of wasted food in the South Campus Dining Room at the University of Maryland, a facility that serves thousands of meals every day. The students saw that vast quantities of soup, roast turkey, pasta and salads were going to waste, so they decided to do something about it and created the Food Recovery Network. The network's recovery efforts were small at first, with only five volunteers showing up at the South Campus dining hall to pick up leftovers and drive them to area shelters just once a week. The average haul of saved food was only about 150 to 200 pounds each night, but by the time the three original founders of the Food Recovery Network had graduated from college in 2012, they had donated over 30,000 meals to Washington D.C. area shelters.

Eventually the network began working with students at other universities to start their own recovery programs and in 2012 alone, the students at 12 different campuses had rescued more than 120,000 pounds of food from campus dining halls, off-campus restaurants and other food wasting venues. Americans wasting perfectly good food is a growing problem in this nation today, and the numbers from the National Resources Defense Council show that we actually throw out and waste about 40% of the food we prepare daily. The number equals more than 20 pounds of wasted food per person per month, and shows that we waste a whopping $165 billion worth of food each year. The council's data also shows that $8 billion to $20 billion is currently wasted by food services like restaurants and cafeterias alone.

Recovering potentially wasted food is not a new idea, especially in the Washington D.C. area where just last year the nonprofit DC Central Kitchen organization's Campus Kitchens Project recovered more than 400,000 pounds of food from dining halls, grocery stores, restaurants and farmers markets in the area. Dana Gunders, of the National Resources Defense Council said "Bringing food recovery to more colleges is important," and she added that "Wasting food is a learned behavior and the amount Americans throw away has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s. By recovering food on college campuses, it trains young people to be aware of this issue. Just having it on the radar will help people make the right choices."


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