One of the beneficiaries is the Christian Life Center of Riverdale, just over a mile from the College Park campus. Students drop off food there twice a week and after sporting events. “You can feed 1,000 people with the food from a football game,” says pastor Ben Slye. “Hundreds of chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs.”
There’s also a good supply of more-healthful food. Slye, who takes photos of every recovery, sees trays of steak, chicken, tuna, salmon, pasta salads, fruit, “everything you can think of.” The center feeds 400 people a week: twice a month at its headquarters and at several partner soup kitchens to which it delivers food. (It also has its own food recovery program; each week it picks up and distributes as much as 25,000 pounds of fresh produce from distributor Taylor Farms.)
“I am just amazed by these kids,” Slye says. “They take their own time, their own vehicles, their own money for gas. And they are so committed. They have a tight schedule. They are always there.”
The network now includes chapters at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design and University of Texas at Austin. Still, notes director Simon, as many as 75 percent of college campuses have no food-recovery program in place. He says that adds up to 22 million meals that could be given to people in need. “We want to unite colleges that do have programs and build a movement at colleges that don’t,” he says. “We envision the end of unnecessary food waste.”
It’s a lofty goal. But there may be another measure of success: putting yourself out of a job. Eighteen months after they began, University of Maryland students no longer pick up at the South Campus dining hall after waste there virtually disappeared. Administrators, who are now paying closer attention to food waste, decided to extend the dining hall’s hours so that it now sells out of many of its prepared meals.
“We have to give them some of the credit for it,” said the dining services’ Hipple. “We became more aware, and we figured out a way to make change.”
Black, a former Food section staffer based in Brooklyn, writes Smarter Food monthly. Follow her on Twitter: @jane_black.