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Food Waste on Campus

June 16, 2014
Linda Kurtz

The Campus Kitchen Kitchen Project is an excellent program that empowers student leaders to create innovative sustainable solutions to hunger in their communities. That’s why we’re featuring their amazing work with this guest post by Linda Kurtz from their Washington, DC headquarters. The team supports their work, and they ours. There are so many ways to reduce food waste and eliminate hunger. Read on to learn how our younger citizens are getting engaged in the fight.

Americans waste a staggering amount of food. You may have heard that 40 percent of our food goes uneaten. But do you know just how much that is? That’s more than 20 pounds of food per person every month. That’s enough to fill the Empire State Building with food 91 times. But at The Campus Kitchens Project, we know that’s also enough food to feed thousands of people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

The Campus Kitchens Project is a national non-profit that empowers student leaders to create innovative and sustainable solutions to hunger. On 36 (and counting!) high school and college campuses across the country, students rescue food that would have otherwise gone to waste from dining halls, grocery stores, farmers markets and restaurants. They then use that food to prepare balanced meals for food insecure residents in their communities, collaborating with local organizations and/or social workers to serve clients with the greatest need. Students involved in Campus Kitchens learn to see wasted resources as a sustainable solution to community issues and gain valuable service learning and leadership experiences, which build upon and enhance their work in the classroom and in future careers.

The impact these students have is staggering: since the first Campus Kitchen opened in 2001, our students have recovered more than 3,667,500 pounds of food from going to waste. They’ve used this food to create 2,208,769 nutritious meals for thousands of food insecure individuals and families. In 2013, these efforts added $750,187 in economic value from meals provided to the communities we serve.

Rather than simply delivering food indiscriminately, we know that serving healthy meals is extremely important, so our students work to base their creations off of the USDA’s MyPlate healthy eating guide. So far this year, our Campus Kitchens have grown and/or recovered more than 31,000 pounds of fresh produce, which is essential for meeting these guidelines.

More and more students and schools are realizing they can make a positive impact on their waste through our program. We constantly speak to students, staff and faculty who are passionate about finding ways to reduce waste on campus and address food insecurity in their communities. They understand that the worldwide issue of hunger can oftentimes be found in their own backyard. These students are breaking down walls that so often surround the traditional college campus and using existing assets to foster mutually beneficial relationships in their communities. On the one hand, they see hunger; and on the other, they see food going to waste on campus and dining halls with commercial kitchens sitting dark in the evenings. And they are ready to do something about it.

Are you ready to take the next steps to reduce your campus’s food waste and address hunger in your community? Together, we can make a difference.


Linda Kurtz is the Online Community Engagement Manager for The Campus Kitchens Project. After graduating from Elon University in 2011, she spent a year serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Washington, DC, where she utilized asset based community development to create new resident-led programming in under-served neighborhoods. Now, Linda loves connecting with students and sharing the exciting things going on at our Campus Kitchens across the country with the rest of the world. When not working to enable students to make a difference in their communities, Linda enjoys running, photography and eating good food.

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