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Executive Summary

The UW Food Pantry is a flagship project of the Any Hungry Husky Initiative, which works to address food insecurity on the University of Washington-Seattle Campus. The Food Pantry provides foodstuffs such as canned goods, grains, fresh produce, and ready-to-eat meals free of charge to any Husky Card-holding student, staff member, or faculty member.

The Food Pantry is currently undergoing a phase of rapid growth: in the last 24 months, total visits have increased over 500% from 748 visits in the 2017-18 academic year to 3,845 in the first two quarters of the 2019-20 year. This improvement is significant, but there is still a great deal of unmet need: a 2018 study conducted by UW faculty members suggested that approximately 20% of students had experienced food insecurity in the 12 months preceding the study. Shelf-stable food available to Pantry users is primarily sourced from bulk purchases funded by donated funds, as well as corporate and private donations.

However, the Food Pantry is presently expanding efforts to ‘glean’ recently-expired or unneeded produce and ready-to-eat meals from on-campus locations including the dining halls, the UW Farm, the District Market, and the Nook. By rescuing food that would otherwise be disposed of, the Food Pantry is able to feed community members in need while diverting food from the waste system. Food sent to landfill and compost, produces methane as a by-product and contributes to climate change. In 2018, the UW estimated that its operations resulted in the compost of 1.7 million pounds and the landfill of 1.3 million pounds of food, while only about 15,000 pounds were rescued or donated. Although not all of this food is suitable for gleaning (e.g. health codes generally prohibit the donation of hot food tray leftovers) the sheer scale of these numbers make it clear that the gleaning program has a great deal of room for expansion.

In order to grow the Food Pantry’s gleaning initiative, funding for two key resources must be secured: the Pantry requires both an expanded capacity for cold food storage and the continuation of a currently-existing staff position to implement and nurture the gleaning program. Presently, the Pantry’s ability to glean food is limited by the amount of cold storage space available; the 18 cubic feet of storage our current fridge provides is no longer sufficient to store all the refrigerable goods we glean, nor does it hold enough food to provide all of our visitors with fresh produce and meals on a daily basis. A new refrigerator would allow us to store more fresh food for longer periods of time, improving the Pantry’s ability to provide visitors with nutrient-dense food while allowing us to divert a greater amount of food from landfill/compost destinations to individuals who need it. The University of Washington Food Pantry therefore requests $35,000 of funding from the Campus Sustainability Fund for the purpose of funding the continuation of a gleaning coordinator position as well as the purchase and installation of new refrigeration. The funding of these two key resources will help prevent thousands of pounds of food from going to waste annually while providing Huskies with safe and enjoyable sources of nutrition.

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Primary Contact:
Sean Ferris