Fresh Food Recovery for the UW Food Pantry

Executive Summary:

Breakdown for this funding request is as follows: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. 

Funding Information

The following provides additional context about our funding request that is not captured in other parts of this request.

Breakdown Total
Gleaning coordinator salary $17.00/hr x 15 hr/wk x 52 wk/year x 20.9% benefit load $13,260 wages, $2,771 benefits = $16,031.00
New cold storage purchase - two refrigeration units $2,299 + $1,019 x 10.1% sales tax + $250 delivery and misc $3,904.00
Farm and Pantry supplies  Compostable produce bags and transport bags, twist ties, rubber bands, thermometers, etc.  $1,000.00
Retrofitting of facilities  To be determined  $14,056.00
TOTAL   $35,000.00


We are currently awaiting feedback from the UW facilities team in regards to any mechanical, electrical or infrastructure adjustments that would need to be made for the addition of the cold storage. Adjustments could include reflooring an area of the Pantry so as to not have the fridges stand on carpet, or rewiring the electrical details to account for additional power needs. The Pantry would return any unused funding as soon as we confirm that there would be no unexpected costs in installing the refrigerator, and are prepared to give a more exact number for our request at the time of our presentation to the CSF board after we received estimates on expected work. Other sources currently funding the Food Pantry include $34,065 from the Services and Activities Fee Committee for the purpose of funding wages for two Pantry interns and two Pantry staff members, and an estimated balance of $56,600 in the Husky Hunger Relief Fund for the purpose of food and operating expenses. This fund is discretionary as it is donor supported, and is what the Pantry currently uses for food purchases, miscellaneous operating expenses, and would utilize for the gleaning coordinator position if alternate funding can not be secured. We are requesting funding from the CSF as a grant status and would not intend to pay back the grant. 


Student Involvement:

First and foremost, students are involved in the project at the most basic level - they make up roughly 99% of visits at the Food Pantry. In addition, the position of gleaning coordinator is a student-run position. The continuation of the position would allow for hands on learning for the gleaning coordinator as well as the opportunity to lead teams of student volunteers in gleaning based projects. The Pantry itself is also student-run, having both student staff and student volunteers, and exists to be a resource for students as well as other campus members. The continuation of the gleaning position gives a student the possibility to have an impact on the food system within UW, as well as the lives of other Huskies. With the addition of more refrigeration, the gleaning coordinator would be able to increase gleaning capacity, ultimately increasing the amount of food available to Pantry visitors as well as expanding upon the scope of food rescue possible on campus. The Food Pantry introduced the gleaning coordinator position as a pilot project in 2019; the success of this position has rendered it  integral to the ability of the Pantry to serve its audience and expand its operations. Student staff and volunteers work in the Pantry everyday that it is open, but no extra student volunteers will need to be recruited at this time for this project.

Education & Outreach:

To ensure the UW community can find out about our project, the Pantry will be posting on both of our social media sites about the funding award as well as in our e-newsletter sent out to Pantry shoppers and subscribers. In addition to these announcements, we would also make a page on the Food Pantry website dedicated to announcing the funding award and maintaining gleaning updates every quarter to demonstrate the funding being put to use. Additionally, as has happened in the past, food-relevant classes can learn about the Food Pantry in class as a campus resource, food system, or however else it would fit into the course curriculum. Further campus support can be seen in the attached Project Support Forms from the UW Farm, HFS, and Student Life.

Environmental Impact:
  • Food
  • Waste
  • Environmental Justice
  • Social Justice
Project Longevity:

f granted the CSF funding, we would anticipate receiving the funds in June. Funding for the gleaning position would be implemented right away since the position is currently filled, and the new cold storage would be ordered at that time as well. While waiting for the fridges to be delivered (estimated at two to four weeks), the Pantry would perform any retrofitting to the space deemed necessary by the internal facilities team, and aim to have the fridges set up and running by mid August. The team assigned to this project would consist of the Pantry staff as well as already established Pantry volunteers if needed. The project is just short of being “shovel-ready”; all that would be needed is the reorganization of the current Pantry furniture to accommodate the new fridges, as well as the determination of any wiring adjustments needed for a commercial refrigerator.

The long-term funding of the gleaning coordinator is still to be dertimined.  After the FY2021 we will pursue funding support from organizations like CSF and SAF, as well as off campus grant opportunities.  There is also interest from donors for this position which creates an additional potential revenue source to support this position in the long term. Once the refrigiration units are purchased the maintenence can be worked into the annual Pantry operations budget. 


Environmental Problem:

The Current Problem

The UW campus prides itself on being a leader in sustainability efforts, and our minimal waste ideology is a large part of said efforts. The Food Pantry supports minimal waste through the rescue and diversion of leftover food from compost or landfill and instead to students who would not otherwise be able to afford it. Diverting food from landfill to the hands of hungry students is important because it provides  food for students, staff and teachers struggling with food insecurity issues and it reduces methane gas which is generated by landfill. 


There are currently two challenges facing the Pantry.  The first challenge is to acquire funding to extend the grant funded Gleaning coordinator position past the deadline. Currently, the part-time (15-17 hrs weekly) gleaning coordinator oversees gleaning, or the collection of unconsumed food, from multiple dining locations around campus. The coordinator also trains volunteers, acts as the main contact point for donating organizations and helps promote the organization through social media.  Just this week the coordinator was able to step in and help the two remaining UW Farm staff with picking, washing and packing the produce to ensure that the Pantry would receive a share of the fresh produce. If the coordinator was not able to assist with the process, all the food on the farm not going to HFS would have been composted due to a lack of staff.  


The second challenge is adequate refrigeration space for the current supply of donated food and additional space needed for the upcoming fresh produce season.  Currently, we are able to store our gleaned food in our household refrigerator and we have been granted temporary access to a fridge at the By George Cafe for the duration of spring quarter due to COVID-19 closures. This extra bit of storage has proved extremely useful as we have been able to accept more gleaning donations as well as make less trips back and forth across campus and can simply restock from the By George fridge. This is a temporary fix and can help with the current volume but will not be enough to help during the extremely busy fresh produce farm season in summer and fall.


The Food Pantry has a strong partnership with the UW Farm, which delivers farm-fresh, organic produce on a weekly basis that we would not be able to purchase from the stores we order our bulk goods from. Refrigerating the produce helps prolong freshness and nutrient density, especially in the upcoming warm months of the year when produce will be at peak production. Due to the limited capacity of the current fridge, the Farm produce frequently ends up kept out at room temperature because of the prioritization of other items such as sandwiches with meat and dairy, ultimately ensuring that the produce will have a shorter shelf life. The refrigerator model we are hoping to purchase has a clear door which would allow for a visually pleasing display of the produce, making it more likely that Pantry visitors choose nutritious, fresh options over shelf-stable alternatives. 


In addition to the storage of fresh produce, insufficient fridge storage means that the Pantry sometimes needs to decline donated food requiring refrigeration simply because we do not have the space to store the food. This leads to food that could have been offered to students needing to be thrown away or diverted elsewhere simply because of storage limits. Unfortunately our current fridge is a household refrigerator, not a commercial one, and almost half of the unit is a freezer which we are unable to utilize for produce. The change from our current unit to an all fridge unit would result in an increase from a total of 18 cubic feet of fridge space to a total of 82 cubic feet of cold storage. 


It is the mission of the Food Pantry to provide food assistance to students, staff, and faculty who for whatever reason are struggling to put food on their plate. Food insecurity is directly addressed through our no-cost, no-questions-asked model as well as the numerous support services we partner with and can direct students to. Food insecurity is negatively correlated with student success, and redirecting neglected food to campus community members addresses both hunger and health through nutrition, relieving strain on the hunger portion of a struggling Husky’s life and allowing them to focus their efforts on other pressing priorities.

How The Project Addresses the Problem

By extending the gleaning coordinator position and acquiring an additional refrigeration unit,  the Pantry will be able to serve more students, staff and teachers dealing with food insecurity issues.  The Pantry will not have the problem of turning down food that needs refrigeration and will be able to keep the donated food fresher longer.  The Food Pantry is able to assist in the sustaining of education through dependable access to food at no cost. The Pantry also provides the opportunity for campus members to know where their food is coming from, specifically the UW Farm and campus eateries, while supporting waste diversion. Subsequently, the gleaning coordinator position provides valuable hands-on experience regarding food waste and how to manage cross-campus food operations.We currently glean from dining locations out of the 30+ on campus, but with additional funding and space, we would work towards maximizing our gleaning reach to include as many locations as possible. 


We can be sure that with the increase in food recovery, the food will be put to good use and that there will not be a gap in supply and demand through the Pantry business model. Pantry shoppers' weekly allotment is dependent on how much product we have; when there is more product, we have lower fewer limits on abundant product, and when there is not enough, we impose more limits to spread the supply. This type of negative feedback system allows for us to buffer the provisions and make sure there is enough for everyone while also ensuring that there is never food leftover at the end of the day. Ready-to-eat food is almost always the first to go, especially when the limits are high. In the month of March 2020, the Pantry gleaned 572 lbs of food from HFS and the UW Farm alone, which is a significant increase from March 2019, when we gleaned 422 lbs from HFS and UW Farm. 


Since gleaning is not an exact science, we cannot predict how much food is gleaned from week to week. However, as of recently, the Pantry has been averaging around 150 people a week. Since February 2019, the UW Food Pantry has redistributed over 3618 lbs of gleaned food to put in the hands of food insecure students. This is 3618 pounds of food from Center Table, The Nook, the UW Farm, Suzzallo and the HUB Starbucks, and City Grind Espresso that would otherwise have been thrown away. In addition, the 2019-2020 school year (we are including summer 2019 in this calculation), the UW Food Pantry so far has had over 2,535 visits from shoppers—all of whom are UW students, staff, or faculty. In 2017-2018 alone, the UW Food Pantry had 748 shopper visits. This means the number of visits from the 2017-18 school year have over tripled compared to the 2019-20 school year. This upward trend of visitors is no doubt related to awareness about the Pantry since opening, but also due to the ability of the Pantry to provide for its visitors, which can be built upon by the continued gleaning and the improvement of our cold capacity storage. 


Explain how the impacts will be measured:

This project's impacts will be measured by the increased amount of food storage and delivery allowed at one time, which will be tracked through the gleaning sheet kept on-site at the Food Pantry where we track source, type, temperature, and weight of food. We will also be able to monitor total gleaned food from campus, with the goal of expanding gleaning to other locations on campus. Despite the COVID-19 closure mandates, we have already had an influx of dining establishments on campus indicating that once they open back up, they would like to initiate gleaning partnerships with the Food Pantry. Additionally, data will be calculated to determine what percentage of Pantry visitors are accessing gleaned food to assess the popularity and necessity of the gleaning program, and to demonstrate the impact of the project.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $35,000
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Gleaning coordinator salary16,031.00116,031.00
1x 1-door refrigerator and 1x 2-door refrigerator3,904.0013,904.00
Compostable produce bags and transport bags, twist ties, rubber bands, thermometers, etc. 1,00011,000.00
Retrofitting of Pantry - Labor14,056.00114,056.00

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total:


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Install of new cold storage1-2 months August 1
Continue gleaning coordinator1 dayJuly 1, 2020
Estimate from UW facilities 30 daysMay 15, 2020
Retrofitting complete 1-2 monthsAugust 1