Redefining Recycling

In the early years of this site we highlighted a concept of “the fourth r” – focusing on the restaurants and events planners who support a form of social entreprenuership by donating excess food to local shelters. On an annual basis huge amounts of prepared foods go to waste in all forms of venues, but the classic buffet-style cafeteria is a long-term culprit. But luckily creative solutions have gone hand-in-hand with awareness of the problem. At the time we used the term “recycled” when taking about the food programs. Kudos to the new voices who redefined at as “repurposed.”

Back in 2011 when I was a student at the University of Maryland in College Park I once noticed a massive pile of trash in front of a dining hall. A closer look revealed that it was mostly food — a half-eaten sandwich, a browning apple and what appeared to be the remains of the day’s lunch special.

The heap was gross, but intriguing. Turned out it was a stunt to get students thinking about how much food they throw out each day.

Nowadays, students are coming face to face with their food waste, and its environmental and social impact, a lot more often. They also have more opportunities do something about it.

The conspirator behind the stinky installation at UMD was Ben Simon, 25. Simon founded the Food Recovery Network as an undergraduate as a way to get college kids to salvage uneaten food from cafeterias and deliver it to local agencies that feed the needy. He’s been so successful with the initiative that he was recently highlighted on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list of entrepreneurs.

Read more about the people behind the organizations “repurposing” food here.


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