The cafes and some dining halls at the University of Connecticut donate their leftovers to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic at the end of each business day through the Foodshare program.
“We don’t want to see any waste on this campus and we always know there’s someone in need so we do what we can to work with community outreach and make that happen,” area manager of retail operations Ethan Haggerty said.
Haggerty said all the leftovers from the University-run cafes are taken to Bookworms Café, and then anything that is not sold by the end of the night is brought over to the soup kitchen by volunteers from UConn’s community outreach program.
“Assuming the volume of leftovers is worth the trouble and mileage for Community Outreach to take the food to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, they arrange for pickups and bring it over there,” Haggerty said.
In 2016, roughly 2,000 pre-packaged items, such as salads and sandwiches, were donated.
Program coordinator for Community Outreach Sara Cook said that the ten volunteers who collect and deliver the food are dedicated to helping.
“(The volunteers) want to be there, they’re very invested and they seem to be enjoying it,” Cook said.
Cook said she believes this is a valuable program for students.
“It provides students with an opportunity to be involved in student leadership and also volunteer in the community,” Cook said.
Community Outreach’s volunteers must apply and go through an interview process and food safety training before they can participate in the program.
UConn has been participating in the Foodshare program for the past ten years.
Cook said it has been a student-driven program since the beginning.
“It started as students recognized that there was a need and an opportunity,” Cook said.” There’s food (that would) get thrown out and there’s a community that could use it.”
Haggerty said that the fact that the items are prepackaged is convenient for those who go to the soup kitchen.
“Maybe everyone can’t walk to the soup kitchen, this gives the soup kitchen the option to have portable items (to bring back to their families) because everything is prepackaged,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty said that the Soup Kitchen appreciates that UConn regularly sends them high-quality items.
“We know they’re more than happy to receive the donations,” Haggerty said. “They know what we send down there is going to be high quality and servable.”
Unserved food from dining halls is also sometimes donated if it never made it to the serving line.
“You would only be sending things that were already panned up and just transfer them to a disposable pan,” Haggerty said. “It was never stuff that had ever been exposed to college students.”
Haggerty said Dining Services typically donates 75-100 items per week, depending upon how much food is sold each day in the cafes.
“If we randomly have a bad weather day and the campus gets shut down abruptly, we will have more leftovers than normal which probably times out well for them because that’s a good time for them to get a higher volume,” Haggerty said.
Foodshare is a great program to help the community, Haggerty said.
“It’s a really great program, we’re happy to be involved in it and we’re hoping it continues,” Haggerty said.