Leftover food listserv combats food waste


Illustration by Elena Kaminskaia

Louis Moench, News Reporter

Junior Adam Rooney started a free food email list this semester because he noticed how much food was being thrown away after catered events on campus. He believes the email list is a simple solution to the problem of food waste: tell people where to go with their reusable containers, and let them eat. 

Tackling food waste on campus has been an interest of Rooney’s for a while. 

Since Cleveland opened last year, “They’ve reduced waste a lot,” Rooney said.

His email list, [email protected], enables students and event organizers to reduce waste even further.

“[It] feels really good to get free food and also reduce waste,” Rooney said.

According to Rooney, the hardest part of implementing the listserv is adding people to it. His project is also complicated by regulations governing food distribution and preparation — food cannot be left out after Bon Appétit-catered events for too long before it becomes legally unsafe. Students who hear about free leftovers from the listserv might not be able to reach a posted meal before Bon Appétit employees are required to throw it away. Other problems are related to food safety regulations: food cannot be distributed to the food insecure without being prepared under certain regulated conditions and maintained and monitored for safety.

While Rooney created the listserv to combat food waste, sophomore Em Perry notes that in addition to decreasing overall food waste, a free food listserv is a way to decrease the burden of food insecurity of Whitman students and Walla Walla residents in general.

The issue of food insecurity at Whitman, according to Perry, is often overlooked because of the affluence of the college’s student population. But Perry says that they, as well as other members of the first generation/working class community, have experienced food insecurity during their time on campus. Perry said it hits especially hard when students can’t afford to travel home over long breaks. During winter and spring break, Cleveland Commons, Jewett Cafe and the Reid Marketplace all close. This means that students without funds, except for their Flex balance, have trouble meeting their needs. 

Cleveland Commons is only one and a half years old; it was opened last year part way through first semester. Whitman began offering meal services that were paid for per item instead of by meal, buffet style, as had been the case at Cleveland’s predecessor, Prentiss dining hall. The buffet style hall allowed students to pay a fixed price for as much food as they could eat in one sitting. Perry acknowledged that students would take food in containers from Prentiss, which, according to Perry, was allowed by Whitman policy.

Perry noted that sophomore Sam Kinzel is advocating for the implementation of the ShareMeals app, which allows college students to notify each other when they have extra food or meal plan swipes. The app is designed to reduce food waste and allow greater access to food on college campuses throughout the United States.

“It seemed to be a more efficient, streamlined way of increasing food access and bringing together the whole campus,” Kinzel said.