Originally published by Harvard Law School on September 23, 2016.
Kicking off the semester sustainably, Harvard Law School launched its first formal food donation program, in partnership with Food For Free, a local nonprofit that recovers wasted food from companies across Cambridge and Boston to redistribute to the area’s hungry. HLS will set aside excess prepackaged and retail foods from its dining halls for weekly pickup by Food For Free.
Food recovery and wasted food have long been a focus at HLS. In May 2016, HLS piloted its first food donation at a zero-waste Commencement lunch and was able to recover 900 meals that were distributed by Food For Free to local food pantries and shelters. This initiative was made possible through collaboration with Restaurant Associates (RA), HLS’s food services provider, HLS’s Sustainability Manager, and guidance from the HLS Food Law and Policy Clinic.
The Food Law and Policy Clinic is tackling food waste through work on date labeling policies, food donation policies and liabilities, and through education efforts like their recent Reduce Recover: Save Food for People conference in June.
Across campus, Harvard University Dining Services, which serves all 14 undergraduate dining halls and the Harvard Business School is also partnering with Food for Free to redistribute prepared and prepackaged foods. These efforts align with Harvard’s commitment to build and operate a healthier, more sustainable campus. As outlined in the Harvard Sustainability Plan, Harvard has a University-wide goal to reduce waste 50% per capita by 2020, and the Office for Sustainability is in the process of creating Sustainable and Healthful Food Standards, which will address food waste.
While the partnership between HLS and Food For Free will initially focus on the donation of just prepackaged and retail foods, they are looking forward to expanding donations to include all prepared foods that are safe to donate from the cafeteria and catering services on campus. Elizabeth Marble Caton, the Sustainability Manager at HLS, completed a pilot study that found that the wasted food generated through Restaurant Associates’ catered events on campus is roughly 40 percent or .59 pounds of food per attendee. “We are eager to recover this wasted food and redistribute it to those in our community that are in need,” said Marble Caton.