From Field to Fork: Food Waste can be a Resource

The food we throw away could end hunger tomorrow, according to groups collecting food donations in the Athens area.

One of those groups Campus Kitchen.  Group president James Haverly says he and other volunteers deliver an estimated 2,000 pounds worth of donated food per month to combat hunger in the Athens area, specifically among the elderly population.

“It’s just great and a fantastic opportunity to see the faces that light up,” says Haverly.

Currently, the organization works with and caters to clients in Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and Meals on Wheels, but they also donate to Sparrow’s Nest, Live Forward, Salvation Army, and more.

Brad Turner, the UGA campus coordinator of Campus Kitchen, provided a fact sheet that stated one out of six senior citizens struggles with hunger. By delivering meals to this affected population, they feel more safe, secure, and less isolated, he says.

Food deliveries happen every Monday and Tuesday and are not simply random produce or food items thrown into a bag. Campus Kitchen collects, prepares, cooks, packages and delivers ready-to-eat meals to be enjoyed by families. “We are a part of every step of the meal,” says Haverly. The organization is able to create numerous meals from their various donors.

Campus Kitchen receives regular food donations from Trader Joe’s, UGArden, The Fresh Market and Athens Farmers Market. Trader Joe’s is one of Campus Kitchen’s largest donors and will donate food that is about to expire or recently expired within a day or two, says Haverly. Do not worry though, packaged foods can last up to six months past expiration (think crackers, chips, granola bars, etc.), but meat products have to either be frozen or cooked.

Volunteer packaging prepared food for delivery. Photo courtesy of Campus Kitchen.

Although Haverly saystheir food quota is regularly met, food waste is a continually increasing issue at both a local and global level.

Americans typically throw away 30-50% of their food supplies, which is enough to feed the world’s hungry three times over and amounts to 1.3 billion tons per year (Source: Papargyropoulou, Lozano, Steinberger, et al), found in the Journal of Cleaner Production volume 76 (2014). Food waste has economic implications for everyone within the food supply chain, from the farmer, to the producer and the consumer.

Jacob Kennedy is the volunteer coordinator at UGArden (pronounced U-garden) and has been involved with the organization for approximately three years. UGArden is centered on building a sustainable food system through education and experiential learning. Apart from hosting classes and events, UGArden also gives to those less fortunate.

Photo courtesy of Campus Kitchen.

“We sell our produce at three different stands and we donate what’s not sold,” says Kennedy.

For the Fall/Winter season, UGArden is growing greens that include collards, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, lettuce, turnips, and more. Recently, UGArden harvested and donated over 100 pounds of collard greens to Campus Kitchen.

“We’ve got a lot of collard greens,” says Haverly.

Overall, Kennedy mentions that they donate, on average, approximately 300 pounds of food to Campus Kitchen, which can feed up to 45 families, equivalent to 116 people. By donating produce and food items, businesses and organizations can create long-term growth of food sustainability and diminish hunger in their local communities.

The food waste hierarchy proposes that prevention, through decreasing the growth of food and avoiding food waste is the best option. However, another widely accepted option involves the distribution of any food surplus to groups affected by food poverty, according to the Journal of Cleaner Production volume 76.


Graphic of the food waste hierarchy. Courtesy of Journal of Cleaner Production.


Campus Kitchen and its many Athens donors and partners seek to expand the “re-use” option for minimizing food waste, but food provides more than just nutrition to those affected by hunger.

Haverly also mentions that Campus Kitchen does not only provide meals to the hungry, they also facilitate social togetherness among the elderly population they primarily serve. To feed the hungry is not enough, by bringing people and families together for meals becomes a bonding experience that fills the stomachs and hearts of people.

-Shannon Hochschild

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