Fighting food waste and inequality as a student in the US

Tackling food waste and ensuring all students have enough to eat is part of a student initiative to ensure equality at the University of California, San Diego 

November 8 2019
University of California, San Diego Food recovery network

I wanted to find a way to connect with and give back to my peers at the University of California, San Diego, which has an undergraduate population of more than 30,000 students.

In my first year, I got involved in the Food Recovery Network, a programme that pairs the problems of food waste and food insecurity in a way that helps solve them both.

I initially joined for the sustainability aspect of reducing food waste. But after three years of learning about college hunger and how it affects my peers, I have become more and more invested in addressing the equity concerns of food insecurity.

The Food Recovery Network at the University of California, San Diego is part of a national non-profit student movement aimed at fighting waste and feeding people.


Hult Prize: solving the world’s social problems
Tackling climate change on a global scale
The future of the planet is in all of our hands
#UniAdviceWeek: lessons in sustainability from a student in Stockholm


Collectively, our mission is to reduce food waste and address food security within our communities. This can take the form of recovering leftover prepared food from university restaurants or even gleaning produce from local farms. Some chapters bring food back to their campus pantries while others benefit local homeless shelters.

Since our chapter was founded in the spring of 2016, we have recovered more than 36,000 pounds of food. For the past year we have been distributing our prepared food through the Hub Basic Needs Center at the university, a space that benefits students seeking resources for food or housing insecurity.

We are providing emergency food relief through food distributions twice a week at The Hub and supporting the Triton Food Pantry through recoveries from local grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Thanks to funding support from the Basic Needs Committee, we started the Fresh and Full Food Transportation programme to increase our infrastructure and hire student drivers and a route organiser. These additional resources have been instrumental in increasing our capacity to support food security efforts on campus.

A few months ago, we were able to secure a lease for a cargo van that will help us recover heavier loads of food. With this increased capacity, we are able to run weekly grocery recoveries to help stock the Triton Food Pantry.

Through my work with the Food Recovery Network I have learned how important it is for us to thrive as individuals to better the community.

In honour of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, we plan to support campus events to help educate students about the resources available and the work we are doing to bring food to campus. Since this is the first year that we have our van, which we have named Honey, we are hoping to incorporate her into the festivities as well to raise awareness about these resources.

Read more: Best universities for recycling and sustainability

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Study Business & Management

Study Computer Science

Study Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

Study Electrical & Electronic Engineering

Study Accounting & Finance

Study Biological Sciences