In September, Bon Appétit began once again donating food that would have been discarded to the Good Neighbors charity through their Food Recovery program.
Macey Woodlock, intern at Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger’s “Waste No Food”’ project, and Makayla Doran, intern for the Office of Sustainability, spearheaded the efforts of restarting the Eckerd tradition.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, donating food and food supplies was difficult because of hygiene reasons and health precautions. The charities that Eckerd used to partner with were no longer accepting donations.
Doran was initially drawn to the idea of donating extra food to the community after seeing how much food waste was produced daily during the pandemic because of the inability to donate. Now, Eckerd has lifted COVID-related restrictions, so it seemed natural for the program to get off the ground again.
“It’s plain and simple,” Duke Walsh, general manager of Bon Appétit, said. “We could just as easily throw it into the trash but what good does that do? Why not donate it? We’re helping people.”
Although the intentions are simple, the process of providing food safely is quite complex. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, Bon Appétit staff check the temperature of food and package it securely in order to ensure food safety. Food that is donated must not be circulated in the dining hall, but rather is the overflow of food that is prepared in the kitchen. Proper handling and management of the food must be ensured.
To help staff, the Office of Sustainability is creating volunteer opportunities for students where they can earn Reflective Service Learning hours through biweekly time commitments to the program.
“A lot of what Eckerd does is supposed to be service learning, community-based and environmental,” Doran said. “We live in a food desert and the school has the resources to help. We need to take advantage of that.”
For Woodlock and Walsh, the food recovery program at Eckerd is not their first experience donating food. Woodlock previously worked on projects for elementary schools in Pinellas County to donate their food to local charities. Walsh remembers holding fundraisers generating revenue for the meals of public school kids in Oxford, Georgia.
“Sometimes food sustainability gets left out because it’s not looking at the whole planet, it’s more people-focused,” Woodlock said. “Especially in the urban area we live in, it’s so important to both integrate Eckerd into the community and help environmental issues here in St. Pete.”
Although the program was re-established just last month, Woodlock and Doran have been discussing its reintroduction since spring semester. However, being close to the end of the semester, they had to postpone their plans.
In the future, they hope to collaborate with other dining facilities under Bon Appétit such as the Tierra Taqueria and Triton’s Pub. They are also working toward collecting food from events on campus which typically generate a lot of food waste.