Razorback Food Recovery volunteers reported a decline in the amount of food waste on campus since the start of the program in 2014, resulting in less food recovered.

The team recovered 30,116 pounds of food during the 2017-18 academic year, a 31.6% decrease from the 44,049 pounds recovered during the 2016-17 academic year, said Benjamin Farzley, Razorback Food Recovery data intern, in an email.

Razorback Food Recovery, part of the Volunteer Action Center and the Center for Community Engagement, is a student-led program that works to recover surplus food items and redistribute it to those in need within the Fayetteville community and Northwest Arkansas region, according to the VAC website.

The by-product of food recovery is helping those in need in Northwest Arkansas, but the main goal is to reduce waste and the amount of food going into landfills, said Razorback Food Recovery chairperson Emily Henson, a senior.

 “Our main mission is to stop food waste at the source,” Henson said.

The organization recovers 71.85 pounds per day this semester, which equates to roughly 359.25 pounds per week, Farzley said.

With the help of data interns, the recovery team informs Chartwells’ managerial staff on which dining halls are wasting the most of what product and how much they can save by cutting that extra, Henson said.

Since its start, the organization has recovered more than 190,000 pounds of food, providing more than 108,300 meals to individuals and families, according to the VAC.

The Razorback Food Recovery team has 60-90 volunteers per semester who are assigned a dining hall and a weekly volunteer shift, Henson said.

Volunteers recover food from Brough Commons, Fulbright and Pomfret dining halls, the Arkansas Union, the Jerry and Gene Jones Family Student-Athlete Success Center and Honors College events.

Christian Van Camp, a senior, began volunteering with Razorback Food Recovery during the spring 2019 semester. He helps package food at Fulbright once a week.

Van Camp appreciates that the program helps with wastefulness on campus and gives students the ability to get involved, he said.

“They save a tremendous amount of food that is perfectly fine, it just was not needed on that day,” Van Camp said.

Through labeling, logging and weighing the food, Razorback Food Recovery is able to track how much food is actually wasted, Henson said.

Volunteers also fill out an 11-variable Google form when labeling the food that allows them to input information including where it is from, the date it was collected, if it was refrigerated and what food group it is in, Henson said.

The distribution team delivers food to five community partners: the Yvonne Richardson Community Center, LifeSource, the Northwest Arkansas Salvation Army, the 7Hills Homeless Shelter and the Jane B. Gearhart Full Circle Food Pantry on campus. 

Volunteers are trained to know what is recoverable and attend training to learn about food safety, Henson said.

The Razorback Food Recovery team has recovered food from football games this semester, but is still working on the best way to recover food from future football and basketball games, Henson said.

Abbi Ross is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since March 2019.

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