Elmhurst Moves to Fight Food Waste and Feed People

Sustainability has become an increasingly central focus at Elmhurst College. This year, with the creation of the my Sustainability Internship, Chartwells has become a leader in the efforts on campus. We have conducted a waste audit, encouraged proper portion size, increased knowledge of correct recycling, and our biggest initiative yet – started our own chapter of the Food Recovery Network to help feed people and fight hunger. Essentially, students work with local agencies and campus staff to coordinate the donation of the cafeteria leftovers. Started by students at the University of Maryland in 2011, this organization has recovered over 1 million pounds of food and counting!


Food Recovery Network came to Elmhurst because Steven Goodwin, Director of Dining Services, had tasked me with looking into it. Starting a chapter consists of seeking out a leadership team, partnering with a local agency to accept the food, coordinating the logistics with the kitchen staff, and recruiting student volunteers. I was surprised to find that the most challenging task of the entire process was finding an agency to accept donations. After contacting shelters, non-profit organizations, churches, and pantries, I could not find an agency within our zip code that accepts fresh food. Whether they lacked adequate space, had no means of storing the food in refrigerators, or could not do anything with the food, it seemed I had to search elsewhere. I partnered with the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry, located in Hoffman Estates, IL, where I had previously worked as an Archivist. Since November, 2015, we have donated over 1,000 pounds of food, feeding hundreds of families.


As more and more students volunteer with Food Recovery Network, they start to learn about food waste, portion size, and basic cafeteria operations, further breaking down the barriers between students and Chartwells, and improving the student perception on our food quality, price, and service. I am excited to see the development and growth of our chapter over the years to come.