Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative coordinates dining center food donation

Senior Shelby Luce, left, and junior Lucy Zwigard, pictured here on Sept. 19, co-founded Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative. (Max Lalanne / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative (TFRC), a university-affiliated food donation umbrella organization, is working to package and distribute uneaten food from Tufts Dining Services this semester, according to TFRC founders Shelby Luce and Lucy Zwigard.

TFRC is a partnership between Dining Services, students, faculty, staff and Food for Free, a local NGO dedicated to redistributing food to homeless families.

When it launched last March after collaboration between various faculty members, staff members, student groups and independent student volunteers, TFRC worked to connect Dining Services to Food for Free who packaged and delivered excess food. However, this semester TFRC obtained a food packaging machine which allows volunteers to heat-seal prepared food trays themselves, according to the founders.

This fall, Dining Services leased a food packaging machine for its own use and that of TFRC, Zwigard, a junior, said. She added that the machine is located in Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center.

According to Luce, a senior, the machine eliminates the use of many plastic bags that were formerly used for temporary packaging.

“We used to have to take all of the food and just bag it and weigh it and donate it to [Food for Free], but now we actually have a brand new machine,” Luce said. “Now we can actually make the meals ourselves.”

Packaged meals can contain a variety of foods, according to Richard Kaup, chef manager at Carmichael Dining Center.

“Whatever [food] comes back … we’ll set it up and package it up for Food For Free in six ounce portions across the board,” Kaup said. “So six ounce proteins, six ounce vegetables, six ounces starch of some sorts … All of those products that were before possibly thrown away at some point or just brought straight to composting [have] now found its way to feed people in need.”

The dining centers strive to save all extra food, no matter how little there might be, Kaup explained.

“Even with small amounts, whatever it may be, we’ll still retain it because it’s still something that can be utilized … [If] it’s ten french fries in a pan we’ll still hold back on that because we can package that,” Kaup said.

According to the TFRC website, Dining Services donates about 200 pounds of food per week to Food For Free through TFRC.

Last semester, during their first few months working with Food For FreeLuce and Zwigard focused on gathering volunteers. This semester, their focus is on promoting food safety, they said.

“It’s really important that all of our volunteers take this very seriously and follow food safety best practices,” Zwigard said.

The pair produced a food safety training video and plan to hold training sessions for volunteers in Dewick, Luce added.

According to Luce, campus dining centers often overestimate how much food to prepare and end up with leftover pre-consumer food or food that has not been put on a plate that can be donated.

When Luce and Zwigard began working with Food For Free, they found widespread support on campus, Zwigard said.

“[We have] a lot of allies in the community health department and environmental studies [department] — professors who take an interest in the food rescue, the idea behind it,” Zwigard said.

TFRC is not the only group contributing to the effort, according to Luce.

“There’s so many people passionate about food on campus – especially with the whole new food systems and nutrition minor,” Luce added. “We just want to make it so that we’re all working towards the same goal of saving food in all of the different ways possible.”

The dining centers have also been active in promoting the program. At Carmichael Dining Center, Tufts workers have been reaching out to garner volunteers for packaging extra pre-consumer food.

Luce and Zwigard expressed hopes for the program’s future and expect changes within the group. Among the collaborative’s goals is adopting a new name, since the current name was intended to be temporary, Luce explained.

Kaup expressed his support for Tufts’ contribution to the Food For Free program.

“[The program] is one great way of giving back to the community,” Kaup said.

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article noted that the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative (TFRC) was student-led, but the TFRC was actually initiated through the actions of several faculty, staff, student groups and independent student volunteers. The article has been updated accordingly.