The Playful Plateful: Food Rescue Edition

By Kate Pluth '12, Copy Editor

According to a recent study, the United States wastes about 40 percent of food produced for consumption. Every day, restaurants, bakeries and mess halls throw away pounds and pounds of perishable food. Meanwhile, one in 10 Americans goes hungry.

This is a travesty, and one would think it would be easy for an organization to swoop in and take all that wasted food to those hungry mouths in a shiny seven-wheeler. But the waste is cumulative, with each establishment discarding food in modest amounts and at different times of each day. Large-scale charities and caring agencies aren’t able to organize an effective schedule to manage all the wasted food.

The responsibility, then, falls to smaller organizations and individuals. And in the past few years, a number of “Food Rescue” programs have cropped up across the nation, taking food that would be wasted from places like Panera Bread and vanning it over to shelters and feeding ministries.

Brilliant idea, right? Well, what if I told you such brilliance was occurring at our own dining halls in Claremont?

About four years ago, a student at Pomona College received a Strauss Grant to start a food rescue program at the College. Since then, other students have jumped in to expand a program to the other colleges. Now Scripps, Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd collaborate to rescue food, while Pomona maintains the original program, deliver- ing their food to a different shelter.

Every evening, after dinner Monday through Thursday, student volunteers take left over prepared food from the dining halls. How much food each night? “About 10 to 15 trays of food,” said Jen Byrne (’12), Scripps coordinator of Food Rescue. And when she says “trays,” think the large storage containers that are made to fit under beds. Then, these student volunteers drive the food over to Pomona Valley Christian Feeding Ministry, a church that also serves food to those who can’t afford or find it elsewhere.

“The food that we deliver at night is served the next day for lunch and dinner. The [Food Rescue] program really helps with the financial burden of feeding so many people; the ministry feeds anywhere from 60 to 100 people per day,” Byrne said, “[The program] also helps with [easing] the burden of preparing that much food.”

Another beneficial aspect to Claremont’s food rescue program is the kinds of food it saves. Said Byrne, “It’s healthy stuff; it’s proteins and meat

and vegetables—nutritional things that wouldn’t always be in these people’s diets.” Food Rescue volunteer Sarah Stringer (’12) agreed, saying “there’s no reason that the food we have left over should go to waste and that we can’t share our fortune to have such vast amounts of high-quality food with the surrounding community.”

Administration, too, has been cooperative and receptive to making the Food Rescue program work. Byrne described how dining hall managers miss the student volunteers when the schools go on break; some even approach her, eager to start the program back up as soon as students return.

Volunteers usually deliver one night per week, about a one-hour commitment. Stringer emphasized that the small time commitment—about 15 minutes to Pomona and 15 minutes back, time during which Stringer “get[s] to chat with another Scripps student”—is highly rewarding. “It’s one of the more significant things with which I’m involved,” Stringer said. Byrne said she would love more people to consider joining, and is actively looking for someone to take over the coordinator position when she graduates. If you are interested in becoming a part of Claremont Food Rescue, contact Jen Byrne at