Fresh Food Recovery for the UW Food Pantry

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $30,000

Letter of Intent:

Project Overview:

The UW Food Pantry is submitting this letter of intent to the Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) to seek approximately $30,000 to expand our current gleaning and food recovery efforts at the UW Food Pantry. The objective of this project is to recapture food from the University of Washington (UW) food system that would otherwise become waste and redistribute it to feed students who experience food insecurity.  We call the process of recovering food that would otherwise go to waste or compost gleaning and use the term interchangeably with food recovery in this proposal.  The term food insecurity describes the experience for individuals who have disruptions to the reliable and nutritious food needed to live an active and healthy lifestyle[1]. At the Pantry, want to keep food as food to mitigate the academic, social, and personal impacts of food insecurity for UW students. 

There is an intersection between unutilized food in the UW Food System and food insecurity that we can leverage to meet goals of sustainability and student well-being.  In 2018, UW estimated that over 1.7 million pounds of food was composted and 1.3 million pounds of food landfilled annually, while only 15,000 pounds of food was recovered and donated[2]. During this same time frame, a study conducted in 2018 by UW faculty revealed that roughly 20 percent of UW students may experience food insecurity in the 12 months preceding the study[3]. As you can see by these numbers food is going into the landfill and compost while at the same time students are experiencing disruptions to their access to nutritious food. 

Gleaning and food recovery have been underway at the UW Food Pantry as a pilot project since February, 2019 with the support of temporary funding from the UW Career & Internship Center. In the last year paid-student interns have opened five campus dining locations to glean ready-to-eat boxed and prepared items (sandwiches, salads, cut fruit and veggies); and worked closely with the UW Farm to glean and recover the fresh produce they grow that goes unutilized. Approximately 4,500 pounds of food have been recovered and made available for redistribution at the UW Food Pantry through this pilot program in the last calendar year. 


Through the first year of our gleaning program the Pantry has been able to reliably recover and distribute food to students in need.  The potential need in the community currently exceeds the capacity at which the Pantry can gather and store food for distribution.  While gleaning currently happens in five locations there are dozens more dining establishments both on and off campus which could partner with the Pantry to reduce food waste and feed students. 

Feasibility and Support:

Both Housing and Food Services (responsible for all campus dining locations) and The UW Farm are partners in support of gleaning and food recovery on campus.  The gleaning and redistribution model the Pantry has used this year has proven to be a reliable way to gather food from dining locations and meets health and safety requirements for food distribution.  The success of the gleaning program has made it a priority for the UW Food Pantry to secure funding for a second year.  As such we are seeking funding support from multiple sources and will keep CSF informed of any funding that is secured and how it might affect our request.

We recognize that another food recovery program called Meal Matchup has been supported by CSF.  We believe we are operating in spaces that don’t compete directly with this service and look forward to discussing how both programs can be implemented to help reduce food waste and food insecurity.     

Budget Priorities:

Support from the Campus Sustainability Fund would be utilized to pay one student employee and provide infrastructure improvements to increase the amount of food recovered and made available for redistribution.  The student employee would be paid above minimum wage for approximately 15 hours per week for 52 weeks of the year.  Infrastructure improvements would help to increase our capacity to transport and cold-store food.  This may include carts or hand-trucks, refrigeration or freezer units, and potentially car rental to move food.  Understanding that a priority of the CSF is for outreach and awareness, a portion of funding would be earmarked for communication efforts or engagement events to help students learn more about food recovery and its role in addressing food insecurity. 

Student Leadership and Involvement:

Students have and will continue to be the force behind our gleaning program.  Current efforts have been led by paid-student interns and supported by student volunteers.  The student leaders responsible for gleaning have worked directly with staff in HFS and UW Farm to establish gleaning operations, schedules, and processes.  Students will largely be responsible to choose the path forward with regard to expansion and what is required to meet capacity needs when it comes to infrastructure improvements.  UW Staff, currently the manager of student success in the Division of Student Life, is responsible for providing institutional support to this program. 

 Thank you for your initial consideration of our request and we look forward to discussing this proposal further. 

Sean Ferris

Manager for Student Success

Division of Student Life



[1] Food Insecurity according the Feeding America and the USDA:

[2] Internal UW reports on waste, recycling, and food donation:

[3] UW Student Housing and Food Insecurity Study:

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Sean Ferris