The UW Campus Food Pantry — a food bank for University of Washington food-insecure students, staff and faculty — has been open for a year now, serving nearly 600 shoppers and distributing more than 4,600 pounds of food, said staff organizer Laurne Terasaki.
The pantry is now looking to branch out into food-recovery programs, a system of collecting food that goes uneaten at UW cafeterias. But such efforts require organization, storage and refrigeration. Still, Terasaki hopes to have a beta test of the program operating as soon as this summer.
The organization hosts a pantry twice a month, alternating between two locations in the Husky Union Building and Ethnic Cultural Center. The pantry is run by volunteers and depends on donations of food and money. They accept donations of unopened shelf-stable, nonperishable items.
The pantry started the Food Security grant, which allows eligible students to apply for $100 grants to their Husky card.
Terasaki initiated the pantry and $100 grant program. She works as the food insecurity specialist within the Division of Student Life as a member of AmeriCorps vista.
Although there hasn’t been a campus-wide survey specifically for UW, it is estimated that 15 to 25 percent of students across the nation are “food insecure,” which is defined as the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.
“Even if you’re to estimate on the low end of, like, 10 to 15 percent, that’s still 4,000 to 6,000 students that are skipping meals or not buying groceries or not eating a wholesome, nutritious diet because they can’t afford to,” Terasaki said.
Now Terasaki has been looking to see how they can work with UW Housing and Food Services for a food recovery system. The details of this system have not been established, but hopefully would work by recovering pre-packaged foods, pastries and, eventually, catered food left over after events from UW Housing & Food Services.
“I’ve actually been kind of working on a type of food recovery program for campus that would address the issue of food being thrown out at cafés or dining halls around campus because we do know that’s an issue,” said Terasaki.
Housing & Food Services already has a food recovery program through Food Lifeline, an organization that distributes to food banks in Western Washington. However, they can’t catch all the waste, and Terasaki is looking for a way to balance the program with The UW Campus Pantry.
Terasaki faces challenges such as food safety, inadequate storage and the logistics of picking up and delivering the food. These problems are common with any recovery program, inadequate storage being the most typical challenge, according to a Food Waste Prevention and Recovery Assessment Report published by the University of Washington and the city of Seattle in June 2016.
“Food waste in America is just outrageous,” said Terasaki, “and if we could just make a small impact by addressing that here on campus and redistributing perfectly good food to students who are in need of food, I mean that just makes sense.”
Read the full May 17 issue.
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