I got involved in this process in August of '13. [? Jonathan ?] [? Laurie ?] approached me and asked me very enthusiastically, how can we get rid of some of this waste? How can you help us get some of this food to the pantry people and the food banks in the area?
And I talked to him, I said well, it's a big process. There's a lot of barriers, a lot walls because of the lot of regulations in this. But you're going to have to go and speak to the health department and risk management at Cornell, and all these different people, layers of people to get permission to do what you want to do, and outline a whole program and how you're going to do that.
I think, probably, the biggest challenge that we encountered was just trying to get over the fact that we knew that this was an important thing that had to happen-- it's just such a duh kind of thing. Of course this food that's being wasted should go somewhere else, and should serve a better purpose than going into the garbage. And it was just really hard to see all these walls that were in front of us, when we knew it was the right thing to do. And clearly, the people who were putting the walls there knew it was also the right thing to do.
And I said, it's going to be very tedious and long. But if you can do that, I'd be willing to pilot the program here. And so he said, great, and he was really enthusiastic. This was in August, and we started this in April of '14.
One reason why this program was so interesting to all of us is that a lot people don't realize that food insecurity is a real issue in Tompkins County, in addition to the global community. So it was great to see Cornell being able to help a local problem, and really connect to the Ithaca and Tompkins County community.
Because there's only a very small amount of food that we can take with health regulations, though the amount that we do, or that the chefs are so generous in giving us, has been substantial. And even that small portion makes a pretty large difference.
Sometimes we don't have anything. Because for us, it's a balance, as well. We have to try to make the food-- we don't want to have any waste. And the waste we have mostly, now, is food that's on the line, we can't use for donations.
A little bit every night that helps, and everybody gives a little bit, it ends up being a lot. For example, the little pilot program that started up here last April, now is expanded through Robert Purcell, and they're giving food. They're looking for other dining halls to give the food. And this keeps going and growing and growing a little bit at a time, and the roll-out keeps getting bigger. And all this contributes to the food banks.
I think we're heading toward zero waste at Cornell, which is going to be really tough thing to do. But I think this is a huge part of it, and it's going to continue to grow.
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Celina Scott-Buechler, Erica Rausch and Chef Tony talk about their work with the Food Recovery Network, a student group that works with Cornell Dining to facilitate recovery of prepared meals that would otherwise be composted. The recovered food goes to the Friendship Donations Network, where it is redistributed to organizations serving the hungry in the greater Ithaca community.