Fairfield University Dining Services promoted Waste Less Week to reach students on topics of sustainability and food waste in The Daniel and Grace Tully Dining Commons starting Monday, Oct. 21. Life@Fairfield encouraged students to check out the opportunities presented, with the platform stating, “Hunger affects individuals on a fundamentally personal level…more than 50 million Americans are food insecure, more than 40 billion meals are wasted a year, and the solution is more simple than you would think.”
Students had the chance to learn about the partnership shared between Food Rescue US & Fairfield University Dining Services. Life@Fairfield further stated, “Together these two organizations are committed to ending local hunger by transferring fresh and usable food to nearby food banks, pantries, shelters and families.”
The process in fighting to end hunger locally starts at the source of the leftover food. Fairfield University makes an abundance of food for its students which usually results in excess. This is where the national non-profit organization Food Rescue US steps in.
The Fairfield County Site Director for Food Rescue US Nicole Straight stated that in Fairfield County alone, Food Rescue US works with over 80 donors, one being Fairfield University. Other donors include General Electric, Stamford Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, Norwalk Public Schools, Trader Joes, Whole Foods and more. Fairfield University is one of the few universities not just in the area but the country who is actively, almost on a daily basis, working to support the community and reduce food insecurity as well as waste.
Straight and fellow Food Rescue US representative Danielle Blaine came to the university equipped with pamphlets and information on the food waste crisis. Importantly, they had the resources that outlined how to get involved within the Fairfield Community.
Straight stated that 80 local social service agencies work with individuals who face food insecurity as well. Food Rescue US doesn’t stop there, as they also work with seniors, veterans, children and schools where kids are on food assistance. The organizations mindset is, wherever there is a need, they will try and help.
The unique quality about Food Rescue US is their process in rescuing the food. There is no hired staff, hired trucks or warehouses, instead they use the Direct Transfer Model. By downloading an application on your iPhone, the organization rescues seven days a week, where volunteers pick up from Fairfield University 2-3 days. Food Rescue US averages about 120 rescues in the town of Fairfield alone per week using the efficient model.
Straight said, “The time it takes you to go to the grocery store and come home, is the time it sits in your car. There is no down time, no sorting, the food gets directly where it needs to go.” Fairfield country has over 900 volunteers but the non-profit always needs more.
Rescues are typically within a half mile to five miles away, making the runs convenient. Straight further explained in regards to the simplicity of model, “Just download our app, look at the schedule, pick up whatever you can, pick up and that’s it. Super easy.”
Food Rescue US, originally called Community Plates, started in Norwalk in 2011. Presently, the organization is in 13 states around the country; States like DC, Miami, Oregon, Cleavland, Cincinnati and more.
Closer to home, Harding High School in Bridgeport, is one of the many receiving agents. After a football coach reached out to Food Rescue US, now some of Fairfield University’s donations are feeding 80 athletes across the high school.
The organization prides itself on their app based system, and Straight noted Food Rescue US was one of the first in the field to use such advancements. The app shows you where you want to go, who the contact person is, what time you pick up and where to drop off. As they grow rapidly, its cause links to the rise in insecurity and food waste as it has become a major environmental issue.
Straight speculates, “I think with food waste, its like you come to the cafeteria, you eat your food and then it’s like out of sight out of mind. You don’t think about the other 40 chicken breasts that got cooked and didn’t get eaten and are going to go into a landfill and off-gas methane.”
Food Rescue US stresses the desire to keep the rescue work a tight-knit community, stating a rise in Fairfield University student volunteers completing rescues from the University itself would be greatly appreciated.
“This is all about finding purpose and being of service in your community,” Straight concluded. To download the app and get started, click here or search “Food Rescue US” in the App Store.
The Tully Dining Commons executive chef Joe Distillio shed light on this global issue and further reported on how Fairfield University, Sodexo and Food Rescue US share ties. Sodexo is the food service provider of Fairfield University. Food Rescue US contacted Sodexo initially to get the ball rolling and since then, there has been a great relationship. Distillio adds, “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Dining Services will then put food together for the organization following the schedule. Distillio noted he works very closely with Straight, to make sure they have food ready for volunteers in time. This means making sure it’s enough food for sometimes 30-80 people.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, a client that has been with a university for 50 years, organizes another batch of food for Prospect House, which they put together twice a week for him to donate to families that are in need.
What filled Waste Less Week further was an event called, “From Bean to Cup: Sustainable Coffee Cultivation,” where Sun Coffee Roasters founder Keith Lemnios outlined the journey of sustainably grown coffee beans Monday. Another highlighted Fairfield University’s collaboration with Field Goods, and in the last, chefs from The Humane Society’s Forward Food Initiative prepare plant-based meals for their guests, with a side of knowledge and information on the positive impact a plant-based diet has on the environment.