By Sophia Harris
Framingham State’s dining service, Sodexo, recently partnered with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to decrease food waste and methane emissions on Jan. 29.
Sodexo’s Regional Sustainability Coordinator, Rose Forrest, led the food recovery initiative and chose Rescuing Leftover Cuisine to divert excess food from landfills and make it available for those in need, said Heather Santoro, marketing manager of University Dining Services.
She said Dining Services will donate food twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.
The items being donated to Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (RLC) are frozen food, shelf-stable items, produce, and prepared food that has not been served.
“We maybe just prepare too much of the meal. Our team can get it down to a cooling temperature, wrap it up, and make sure that we're avoiding any food safety concerns,” Santoro said.
Primarily, the food that is being donated to the RLC is from the main kitchen, she said.
She added most of the “rescuers” who come to Framingham State from the RLC are volunteers. The volunteers will then drive straight to the donation sites, which include women's shelters, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and food pantries.
All the donation sites are local to the pickup locations - the first week's donation from Framingham State was donated to a women's shelter in Middlesex County, Santoro said.
“There have been a lot of questions about food surplus and where your food goes - where our food goes. We hope that this program will help answer some of those questions,” she said.
“We have the opportunity to feed people who may be going without a meal. This is just a feel-good type of situation,” she said.
She added, “Outward looking in, we're doing a little bit of giving back while also being proactive in terms of protecting the environment.”
Megan Mayer, nutrition professor and campus sustainability coordinator, said Dining Services shared the news of the food recovery program with her via Instagram.
She said, “I reached out to Heather immediately to see if I could learn more about the program because food waste is a huge issue. Generally, food that is decomposing in landfills emits methane and it contributes to climate change.”
She said this initiative not only benefits climate change but also contributes to climate justice.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), climate justice is “putting equity and human rights at the core of decision-making and action on climate change.”
Mayer said, “Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by climate change.
She said both communities are impacted by the lack of fresh or healthy food and food insecurity.
Mayer said redirecting food that could have been wasted - to communities or organizations that might struggle with accessing food - is “tangential to climate justice and sustainability efforts.”
The food donation will be helping to meet people's basic needs while also minimizing the environmental impact of that food decomposing in the landfill, she added.
Mayer said people generally waste about a third of the food they purchase or put on their plates.
“It's a pretty significant challenge, and that has environmental impacts,” she added.
She said before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dining Services worked with a student club on campus that would recover food and take it to local nonprofits.
After the pandemic, there have been challenges with student engagement in clubs and with transmission safety, she said. “It just hadn't ever been feasible to kind of reignite that food recovery network.”
‘“I was glad to see that Sodexo was able to establish this partnership with an organization that already exists,” Mayer said.
She said she hopes this program will bring student attention to the issue of food waste.
Mayer added, “There are lots of reasons why food is wasted, and some of those reasons we have control over, and some of them we don't. I'm hoping that it maybe helps just get people thinking about it, or, perhaps helps to change behavior, even if it's in small ways.”
The Marketing Director of Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, Andrew Creamer, said following the first three donations, Framingham State has provided 80 pounds of food, which is 67 meals. A total of 187 pounds of carbon emissions have been prevented.
He said he hopes the partnership will continue with Framingham State as long as there is food to donate.
“There is not a set time for the contract or anything like that. The goal would just be to continue working together,” he said.
Creamer added, “We try to keep all the food donations local within that community where they're being donated from. This makes it easier for our rescuers, who don't have to travel super far with the donations, and also for food safety so that the food is not sitting in a car for a long time.”
Creamer said it's also important for excess food from the community to go back into the community that it is from.
Sophomore Katherine Barrientos said she thinks the food recovery program is a great step forward for Framingham State.
Freshman Katherine Evers said, “I think it's excellent. I think it's really sad when I see people take way more food than they eat, and they just end up dumping it all on the conveyor belt. So if it's usable, then it definitely should be put toward a better purpose than that.”
Sophomore Devon Williams said partnering with the RLC is a “good move.”
Senior Ryan Gryglewicz said he thinks it's a good idea. “Anything that helps people or shelters in need is very important.”
Junior Azucena Thibault-Muñoz said she thinks this initiative is necessary.
“We have a huge food waste problem in this country and I think this is a good step in combating that in our community,” she said.
Sophomore Jennifer Nguyen said she has not heard much about this program but said she wants to learn more about it.
Freshman Sean Keaveney said, “I think that's a great way to redistribute resources back into the community.”