The Student Food Recovery Network has been hard at work reducing food waste and food insecurity at The University of Toledo.
In addition to weekly deliveries of leftover food from University Dining Services to area food pantries, the network has joined forces with University Dining Services and the Student Food Pantry to start Rocket Fuel, a program designed to feed students and reduce food waste from catering events.
Thanks to a $56,000 grant, Rocket Fuel supplies compostable to-go containers, catering staff, and the necessary notification system so students may pack up and have food left at the end of catered events.
“The catering industry is working hard to strike a balance to provide enough food without waste,” Dan Boyle, coordinator of the Office of Student Advocacy and Support, said.
“Too often there is a surplus of food after events. This grant allows us to work with University Dining Services to recover food, eliminate waste, and address food insecurity that many college students face. Food waste and food insecurity are problems around the world, and this collaboration helps us address both issues.”
Students who sign up for Meal Alert through InvoNet at invonet.utoledo.edu receive a text message notification when food is ready, and they come and pack up whatever they want. So far, the service is available only in the Thompson Student Union, but the collaborating parties hope to expand the service soon.
In addition to periodic availability after catered events in the Thompson Student Union, the grant allows for freezer-safe containers for staff to use at the end of large catered affairs like athletic events. Dishes such as macaroni and cheese, grilled chicken, pulled pork and other staples of the University Dining Services menu will be packaged, labeled and frozen to be made available as an option at the Student Food Pantry.
To be added to the Meal Alert notification system, use your UTAD login at invonet.utoledo.edu and search Meal Alert. Signing up is easy and free.
“The Student Food Pantry is a great resource for our students,” Boyle said. “An estimated one in three college students in the United States faces food insecurity. We try to make sure that all of our students have access to a healthy variety of fresh and nonperishable food items. When you can’t access nutritious food, it’s hard to maintain the academic work and extracurricular schedules that are essential to a successful college experience.”
Students with meal plans frequently find their work or internship schedules leave them with a few extra meal swipes at the end of the month. Students now can donate those food swipes to the Student Food Pantry to help another student in need. Students visiting the dining halls in Ottawa House East or Thompson Student Union can donate meal swipes by notifying the cashier as they enter the facilities.
For more information about Meal Alert, the Student Food Recovery Network, or the Student Food Pantry, visit the Office of Student Advocacy and Support website.