Economics professor Garance Genicot is exploring the possibility of a starting a Georgetown branch of the Food Recovery Network, a program that supplies the large quantities of food waste produced by campus dining halls to local shelters.
Since its founding at the University of Maryland, the program has expanded to universities across the country, including Brown University, University of Texas at Austin, University of California at Berkley and Pomona College.
According to Leo’s Marketing Manager Kendra Boyer, Leo’s uses a computerized menu management system to accurately calculate the amount of food required for a full menu each mealtime. Leo’s cooks smaller amounts of food throughout an extended time period rather than cooking a large batch at the beginning of the meal to prevent waste. Unused portions are also sometimes worked into other recipes.
“This allows us to provide a continuous supply of fresh cooked food and minimize the amount of overproduction,” Boyer wrote in an email.
Using these methods, Leo’s produces two pounds of usable food waste along with an average of 240 pounds of unusable food waste per day.
GUSA Senate Subcommittee on Food Service Co-Chair Sam Greco (SFS ’15) added that a recent poster campaign encouraged students to take only what they can eat.
In addition, although Georgetown has worked with nearby shelters and food banks to donate food waste in the past and sponsored a canned food drive in November, Greco noted that specific types of food are commonly wasted.
“There is an opportunity to donate … bread, but Leo’s hasn’t identified a food bank that will take it,” Greco said.
But for Genicot, any food waste is a matter of personal concern.
“My grandmother was in Belgium during the war, and the idea of throwing food away is something I absolutely hate. As much as I can, I try to give away extra food and not throw it away,” Genicot said. “If you are exposed to anyone who lived during those times, then throwing food in the trash seems like such a waste.”
To solve this problem, Genicot proposed a partnership with Martha’s Table, a local nonprofit that provides food and nutritional programs for D.C. residents in need, but said that Georgetown’s relatively small size could be an obstacle in establishing this program.
“Georgetown is much smaller [than the University of Maryland], and I don’t know what the level of waste is here and at what level it makes sense to organize food recuperation,” Genicot said. “This is something that is worth exploring.”
Martha’s Table depends on donations from academic groups, charities and other informal organizations for volunteers and donations. Martha’s Table Food Programs Assistant DirectorDemetrios Recachinas, however, said that the organization is selective about food donations.
“We are being more selective about things that people donate,” Recachinas said. “Going through some of the product tends to be more laborious. While some product does really well, some product takes much more effort and is not worth the cost. But we are all about developing partnerships.”
Recachinas did not specify what steps would have to be taken for Leo’s to partner with Martha’s Table.
Boyer stressed that Georgetown Dining is also open to new partnerships, and Greco added that the Georgetown student body’s commitment to social justice suggests it would be an effective partner of Food Recovery Network.
“Georgetown students are incredibly committed to helping others, the environment and social justice,” Greco said. “We are in a better situation than Maryland, but if a group of students wanted to work with Leo’s to initiate a similar program I’m sure students would rally around that and take that initiative.”