Sustainability efforts helped by redistributing unused food

'Green' eating options help, too

Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, members of student group Feed St. Louis meet at Center Court on the South 40 to load leftover food into a car and deliver it to a shelter. Every Wednesday and Friday, leftover food at School of Medicine eateries is collected and distributed to shelters and shut-ins.

Donating unused food is one way WUSTL tries to “reach out” to the St. Louis community, said Feed St. Louis president Karin Underwood, a sophomore biology major in Arts & Sciences. What is less intuitive is the food donation’s role in Washington University’s sustainability efforts.

“The redistribution of the food that goes unused by our campus community is a tremendously important sustainability issue,” said Matt Malten, assistant vice chancellor for sustainability.

“Large amounts of energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions, water and other resources are required to provide our food,” Malten said. “Wasting food is equivalent to wasting the energy, emissions, water and resources. Reuse ensures that resources are not wasted and ensures that food is nourishing people, not landfills.”

Sustainability was one reason Feed St. Louis originally was created in 2000, said Underwood.

“The Feed St. Louis group was founded by a student, Arash Sabet, who saw the amount of food wasted on campus and thought it was ridiculous,” Underwood said. “‘Sustainable living’ weren’t big buzzwords back then but was a big part of the motivation.”

The current incarnation of Feed St. Louis, formed when two student groups, Feed St. Louis and STONE Soup, merged in 2007. It collects leftover food — about 975 meals a month, according to Underwood’s estimates — from Center Court, the Village and the Bear’s Den on the Danforth Campus. The group delivers to Our Lady’s Inn, Gateway Homeless Services and St. Peter and Paul Shelter, all in St. Louis.

Feed St. Louis plans to work with WUSTL Dining Services to expand its reach and collect unused food from other dining locations on the Danforth Campus, Underwood said.

Leftover food at the School of Medicine is donated to an organization called Campus Kitchens, said Rosemary Girouard, food service director at the medical school. The Saint Louis University branch of Campus Kitchens, a national organization, makes twice-weekly pickups at the medical school and delivers food to shut-ins and shelters in the St. Louis area.

Girouard, who estimated that eateries at the School of Medicine donate approximately 60 pounds of food per week, said the donation benefits all involved. “It helps us see what food was really being used and what was going to waste,” she said, “It’s also helping the community, helping others who don’t have access to good food.”

In addition to delivering leftover food, Feed St. Louis also meets on Sundays at Centenary Methodist Church in St. Louis to cook and serve dinner to the homeless. This past holiday season, Feed St. Louis partnered with WUSTL Dining Services to organize a holiday dinner downtown. WUSTL Dining Services donated food, and WUSTL chefs came downtown to cook.

WUSTL Dining Services is involved in many other initiatives to promote “green” eating on campus, including Farm to Fork — a program to purchase seasonal and regional food from within a 150-mile radius of campus, both reducing greenhouse gas emissions that result from long-distance shipping and supporting local farmers — and Seafood Watch — a program to promote sustainable alternatives in seafood. Dining Services hosted a sustainability conference in February at the Danforth University Center, where Bon Appetit CEO Fedele Bauccio discussed the importance of sustainable practices.

“Sustainability is a very important and core initiative for Dining Services and Washington University,” said Nadeem Siddiqui, manager of WUSTL Dining Services.

Dining Services also only serves Fair Trade bananas and is testing the use of used cooking oil as fuel for Dining Services vehicles. At the beginning of this month, it began offering locally made Companion Bakery bagels.

It is also introducing reusable “grab and go” containers and developing a new decision-making matrix that will guide Dining Services to purchase more locally grown, organic foods. Dining Services recently received an “A” for its sustainability efforts from the College Sustainability Report Card.

For more information about Feed St. Louis, e-mail Underwood at