Stanford students Matthew Rusk, ’17, and Kaitlin Schroeder, ’19, partnered with Matt Rothe, the co-founder of Stanford’s FEED Collaborative, an academic program in sustainable food system education and innovation within the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
Rothe served as a liaison between the students and ReFED, a national network of business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States.
For the project, Rusk and Schroeder researched food waste programs at Stanford. They also interviewed campus chefs and dining administrators, as well as students who are working with local nonprofits to facilitate food donations from the university.
They wanted to dispel myths about donating uneaten food, such as the myth that donating prepared food can put someone at risk for a lawsuit or liability if a consumer falls ill. They also wanted to find a way to easily disseminate that information to other college campuses.
Their final product was a three-minute video aimed at people working in campus dining halls, which will be disseminated across ReFED’s social media sites, and an op-ed written for university newspapers across the country. They also composed a policy memo geared towards university administrators, compelling them to adapt a food donation process on their campuses.
“The course offered the unique opportunity to have a tangible impact – something that isn’t always common as an undergraduate,” Rusk said. “Especially as a senior, I thought it would be great to leave college and move into the professional world feeling like I am leaving behind something that will continue to benefit others.”
Schroeder agreed that the project was very rewarding.
“I hope that our work is able to motivate even just one person to take action and spread the word at their university, so that more communities can get involved with food donation,” she said. “What especially encourages me is the fact that this donated food helps out the local communities immediately surrounding our campus. It is very satisfying to know that what may be a class project for us could lead to an extra meal for someone in need.”