Food & DrinkThe Locavore

UGA Students Are Figuring Out How Wasted Food Can Feed the Hungry

The University of Georgia will play the proud host this weekend to the second annual Food Waste & Hunger Summit. The event is organized by The Campus Kitchens Project, a student organization dedicated to repurposing food that would otherwise go to waste and using it to feed those who would otherwise go hungry. College students from across the nation will flood in for this two-day event to hear from leaders in this crusade.

Speakers from all stages of the food system and the movement to end hunger will be represented, many of whom are affiliated with UGA. Keynote speaker Doug Rauch spent 14 years as the president of Trader Joe’s and has since founded Daily Table. This initiative takes unsold, nutritious food disposed of by grocery stores, restaurants, farmers and manufacturers and brings it to the food-insecure as prepared meals and basic groceries that cost less than junk food.

Not only is Athens an obviously ideal setting for discussions of food, agriculture, waste and interventions for underserved communities, UGA boasts a premiere Campus Kitchen. Last year, it was awarded the first-ever Kitchen of the Year award, despite only having been in operation for 18 months at the time.

With such an exemplary Campus Kitchen affiliated with many local farms, restaurants and fellow nonprofit organizations, as well as the great work done by UGA’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network, it was a natural choice for UGA to be the host institution for this year’s Food Waste & Hunger Summit.

“It’s exciting to be able to share all of the innovative efforts going on here and elevating those efforts to a national level,” says Sarah Jackson, the outreach coordinator for the University of Georgia’s Office of Service Learning.

Jackson’s been a part of the Campus Kitchen at UGA since its inception, and she’s seen it take root to bring food to people all over the community, especially the aging population. The kitchen itself is located in a local retirement home and is partnered with the Athens Community Council on Aging.

In its two-and-a-half years of existence, the Campus Kitchen at UGA has also been involved with campus agriculture, harvesting food weekly at the UGArden to give to those in need. Students attending the summit will get the chance not only to see the UGArden, but also to volunteer there.

“Our weekly donation of fresh produce to Campus Kitchen allows us to take an active role in fighting food insecurity in our community and reducing food waste,” says Christine White, a Food Corps member working at the UGArden. “We’re especially excited to share our experience as food producers/growers with summit attendees—growing food is such an integral and beautiful part of the food system that most of us don’t have a chance to witness.”

Summit attendees will get the chance to volunteer at the UGA geology department’s rooftop garden and Clarke Middle School’s garden. They’ll also attend lectures and network with experts on social justice, social enterprise, public health and nonprofit management.

“Our hope is that summit participants walk away with excitement for the issues and knowledge about steps to address hunger in their community and that they have new ideas for any existing program,” says Linda Kurtz, the online community engagement manager for the national branch of The Campus Kitchens Project. “It’s a really great opportunity for all of the students to learn from one another.”

Farmers Markets: In other news, local farmers markets are back open for business. Yay, spring! You’ll find the Athens Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m.–noon in Bishop Park and on Wednesdays from 4–7 p.m. at Creature Comforts. The Oconee Farmers Market can be found in front of the Oconee County Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville from 8 a.m.–1 p.m.  The West Broad Market Garden opens the first Saturday in May.

This article has been updated to correct an error.