A new initiative to reduce food waste and help end food insecurity in the United States has arrived at Georgetown: the Food Recovery Network. The Food Recovery Network is a student-founded and led organization that was created at the University of Maryland in 2011. Since then, the organization has expanded to chapters across over 180 universities, including George Washington University and American University. Most recently, Georgetown has joined the list of institutions as well.
The organization primarily focuses on recovering waste and surplus food from campus dining halls, vendors, restaurants and more; they then donate this food to various nonprofits and food banks. The Food Recovery Network has recovered and donated approximately five million pounds of food to date. In the last year, the organization recovered 1.04 million pounds of surplus food—the equivalent to almost 900,000 meals.
Daniella Passariello (SFS ’23) initially learned of this project through her environmental studies class and was excited about what it meant for combating food insecurity. “I got super excited about it as a solution to contribute to food justice,” Passariello said.
When she looked to join the chapter at Georgetown, however, she realized none yet existed. She found this troubling given the nature of food waste on campus.
“I couldn’t find one, but saw that American University has one and George Washington has one,” Passariello said. “There are so many students who talk about the food waste at Leo’s. Why aren’t we doing anything about that?”
While college dining halls like Leo’s accumulate surplus food waste, eating places like Royal Jacket also informed the Food Recovery Network of having a surplus of around 30 sandwiches for each sandwich menu item a day. Organizations like the Hoya Hub, a food pantry for Georgetown students who are experiencing food insecurity, and Students Advancing Food Equity (SAFE) were founded to address the inequalities in access to food.
Determined to start a chapter at Georgetown, Passariello partnered with the Zero Waste Program of Georgetown GREEN, the largest environmental sustainability club at Georgetown, to make it happen.
Nadia Sadandan (NHS ’24) is the lead of the Zero Waste team, and understands from her own organizing the importance of this project. After meetings with university and Aramark officials—the company the University hires for catering—she was encouraged by the response of Georgetown and Aramark to the proposal of a Food Recovery Network Chapter.
“They seem really excited about it, which is very nice,” Sadandan said.
These attitudes bode well, given that Sadandan and Passariello will need further university support to make the growth of their project a reality. “We really need their support team to do this and figure out a logistical plan about how we actually collect the food and donate it, ” Sadandan said.
The proposed Georgetown recovery is simple. “We would recover food from Leo’s other providers on campus. We would donate that food to areas in need, some of it will go to Safe and Hoya Hub on campus. And some of it will go to local nonprofits in D.C.,” Sadandan said.
The chapter seems optimistic after a meeting with Aramark, the main catering service for Georgetown on Oct. 5. An Oct. 20 test drive was successful, with food being donated to the Hoya Hub. In the future, food from trial runs will be donated to Hoya Hub and other non-profit organizations.
The university has also committed to providing the Food Recovery Network a loading dock, fridge space and other resources that will be necessary for its success, according to Passariello. The project seems to be enthusiastically received by the administration, according to Sadandan, and after a successful trial run at Royal Jacket, plans to expand to other campus dining locations could occur as well.
The chapter has also received significant interest from students, pushing its leaders to consider what is needed to keep students involved to ensure the longevity of the project. Passariello, in particular, is focused on building an impactful community around the common interest of food sustainability and justice.
“Building community with students on one issue is a great way to bring students together,” Passariello said. “This is a topic that students at Georgetown are interested about and want to do something about.”