U of A Students Working to Ensure Food Isn't Wasted During Walmart Week
Student volunteers from the Razorback Food Recovery program unload unserved food to be given to Lifesource International.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – It’s a fact of the food service industry that not every meal that’s prepared gets served and eaten.
Chartwells, which provides food service for the University of Arkansas, is in the process of preparing about 72,000 meals this week for the activities leading up to – and including – the Walmart Shareholder’s meeting on campus Friday, June 5. Walmart associates, staff, executives, shareholders and guests will be served breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, and Chartwells will also provide food for several special events.
There will be leftovers.
That doesn’t mean they will go to waste.
For the second year U of A student volunteers in the Razorback Food Recovery program are coordinating the effort to collect the unserved food and distribute it to such local agencies as the Salvation Army, Lifesource International and the 7 Hills Center.
“The idea is basically simple,” said Claire Allison, food programs coordinator for the U of A Center for Community Engagement. “We want to keep food from being thrown into the landfill and instead get it to the people who need it. Waste not, want not. But making this happen takes a great deal of work, planning and cooperation. We are very fortunate to have organizations like Chartwells and Tyson Foods who are willing to help make it happen.”
During Walmart week Chartwells staff not only prepare the meals, but they also collect unused food after each meal and store it in a freezer truck provided by Tyson Foods. Each day local agencies send trucks to pick up the food and Razorback Food Recovery volunteers load those trucks with the unserved food.
If the process seems to go very smoothly, that’s because everyone involved has had a lot of practice. The food recovery program has been in operation on campus for more than a year now. Chartwells associates collect and store unused food from campus retail and dining locations in the Arkansas Union as well as from Pomfret Dining Hall. Student volunteers transfer, repackage, weigh and log all recovered items, then organize the distribution to the U of A’s Full Circle Food Pantry as well as to local agencies. Since the Razorback Food Recovery program was launched in spring 2014 more than 25,000 pounds of food have been recovered and distributed.
“Chartwells is very proud to be a part of this,” said Kim Johnson, director of marketing for the food service. “We hate to see food go waste – especially after the work of preparing it. Being able to save good, unserved meals and get them to people who are hungry is a very satisfying experience for our associates.”
Tyson Foods, for its part, is doing more than providing a freezer truck during the week of Walmart events. A grant from the company is making it possible for the Center for Community Engagement to develop a model that other colleges and universities can use to create their own food recovery programs. The comprehensive model will help students assess the needs and resources in their own communities and put together their own campus food programs. The goal over the next year is to recruit at least five Arkansas schools to start these programs, bolstered by mini-grants from Tyson Foods. The long-range goal is to share the U of A model with campuses across the country.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
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