A new program created by faculty and staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is tackling food insecurity while cutting down on campus food waste. Tyler White, chef and program manager for UT’s Culinary Institute, and Jay Price, sustainability manager in the Office of Sustainability, launched Food4VOLS after seeing the how much food on campus was being thrown away.
“At any given point during a semester, one out of three students experiences food insecurity on college campuses,” said White. “At the same time, perfectly good unused food has historically been discarded around campuses at profound rates.”
White says the initiative diverts upwards of 10 tons of food from being discarded on campus.
“Vol Dining employees are very excited about the program and have embraced the new recovery process. They are happy to see the food being used to feed those in need instead of going to waste,” he said. “Programs like Food4VOLS allow us to serve both our community and our planet in a meaningful way.”
Vol Dining expects to expand the program to all dining locations on campus.
White and Price worked with Vol Dining and the Office of the Dean of Students to create Food4VOLS, which recovers food from campus dining locations, creates new meals out of the products, and distributes them to students, faculty, and staff through the university’s food assistance program, Big Orange Pantry.
The food recovered from campus dining locations varies from fresh produce to cooked food that was never sold. White works with volunteers and students through the Culinary Institute to build recipes and prepare nutritious meals with the recovered food.
The Food4VOLS meals and menu options are never set in stone because the ingredients are not known in advance. White and his food prep team strive to offer meals that meet the dietary needs of the students, faculty, and staff who receive them.
Individuals can volunteer through UT’s Jones Center for Leadership and Service to collect food and prepare meals. Donations can also be made to the Food4VOLS Impact Fund, which allows the initiative to continue and to bring on more volunteers to assist in food collection, meal production, and distribution.
Follow Big Orange Pantry on social media for Food4VOLS updates.
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