Wasted Food … But The Homeless Are Right There?

Has this ever happened to anyone else? The other week I’d gone out to eat at this cozy little Indian restaurant downtown with some friends and, after eating, we packed up our leftovers. While walking back to the bus-stop, we passed a few homeless people, avoided eye-contact, and tried to make out way without bothering anyone; however, this one homeless lady hobbled over to us and asked my friend for her leftovers. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen it happen and it certainly won’t be the last. Homeless people have to eat, too, but it’s not always easy finding a way to get them the nourishment they need.


But then I stumbled upon an idea. I was getting breakfast at Observatory Hill one day and happened to walk by the sandwich station. There was this enormous box (at least waist-level) filled with layered lettuce, then tomatoes, then pickles, then mayonnaise, all squished together! The label on the box was “Food waste.” And I was a bit horrified. You know, seeing all that food go to waste? There was so much of it!


Then I put two and two together and I realized, “hey, why not give some of the leftover food (or all?) to the homeless people!” I’m not exactly sure how the process would function, but I think it’s a pretty legitimate idea that, with some thought and leadership, could really be put into action. If anyone knows of something similar, perhaps a program in your area, please feel free to tell us in the comments! It could be a huge help to a lot of people.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ida says:

    This is a great idea and one that has actually been in circulation among the Green Dining crowd for years, but there’s quite a bit of red tape. Campus Kitchens was the main group that spearheaded saving food from O’hill, but recently, they have or are going to move out of O’hill unfortunately. I know that Aramark as a company is less into the food donation side of things, which is why all the food “waste” is composted at all the dining halls (and most retail locations too). Not to mention all the red tape with rules about what can and can’t be donated (anything that has been out on display can NOT be donated), which is another issue entirely. But yeah, food should go to people before compost first! If you’re interested in learning more, I’d suggest talking to Chris Stevens (chief sustainability guru with UVa Dining).

    What I’d like to see is a mission to get all the restaurants on the Corner or Downtown donate food and have a little stand to give that food out to those who need it in those areas OR have someone collect it and bring it to a shelter. With independent restaurants, there’s likely to be less red tape than when dealing with a big corporation like Aramark because you might be able to speak directly with the owner instead of a long line of business and PR people.

    1. Green Grounds UVA says:

      Do you know why exactly Aramark is more into composting than food donation? I agree with you completely. While composting is great way to reduce waste, I feel like the latter would be a lot more beneficial to more people.

      I hadn’t thought about the restaurants donating, though. You’re right; they probably have a lot of extra food that could go to the shelters, as well. Maybe a weekly or monthly event could be hosted to have people volunteer acquiring and handing out the food at a little stand, as you suggested. I’ll look into that to see what can be done. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Kelsey says:

    I am a volunteer for Campus Kitchens, and I don’t believe they are moving out of Ohill. The group does help prepare a lot of the food at our dining halls not eaten and donate it to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. I’m not sure about the whole process of how food is deemed edible by anyone or as “waste” to be composted, but I do know that much.

    1. Green Grounds UVA says:

      That’s awesome! Do you know who exactly leads the program that donates the excess food to the homeless shelters/soup kitchens? Who could we contact to aid them in this endeavor? I think it’s great that they’re already doing that and would love to help out improving / coordinating it in the future.

      1. Estelle says:

        Hi Tushar,

        I’m part of the student leadership team for Campus Kitchen. Feel free to email me at etg5ab@virginia.edu if you’d like to discuss more about what we do, and visit and like our facebook page! facebook.com/theckatuva

        We hear the concerns about food waste and we’re trying our best– it looks like we need to get the word out more!


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