Two dining halls give leftovers to homeless

Yale’s new composting program is not the only recent effort to manage food waste in the dining halls: The Yale Hunger and Homelessness Action Project began a pilot program this semester to donate extra food from two dining halls to New Haven’s homeless.

Project coordinator Lexie Berwick ’12 said the initiative surprisingly requires little effort. Every Monday and Wednesday, YHHAP members pick up platters of leftover food — which Yale Dining workers refrigerate overnight — from the Pierson and Davenport college dining halls. Dining hall workers label the trays with the food’s original preparation date and required reheating temperatures.

When YHHAP members first pitched the idea to Yale Dining dining hall managers were eager to get involved, Berwick said. She said the managers came to meetings armed with exact records of the amount of waste their dining halls produced, which ended up being around two to five serving platters per day.

Although the project currently receives food from just two dining halls and caters only to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen on Temple Street, Berwick said the program plans to extend to all 12 residential dining halls in the fall, and maybe even collaborate with students at the Divinity School to broaden the volunteer base.

“It’s all still in the planning phases — no catchy names [for the initiative] yet,” YHHAP co-coordinator Gabriel Zucker ’12 said. Still, Joseph Breen ’12, YHHAP’s other co-coordinator (and a staff photographer for the News), said they intend for the food recycling program to become more structured and involve more students in the future.

Before the initiative started this semester, some dining halls had already established relationships with other soup kitchens and homeless shelters to put their leftover food to good use, said Regenia Phillips, director of residential dining. Silliman College, for example, donates leftover food trays to Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, Berwick said.

“We recognize that when you have leftover food, it can feed someone,” Phillips said.

But the road toward a uniform, centralized effort has been met with concerns about health. Breen said coordinators worried about the legal ramifications of bringing hot food from one kitchen to another without proper precautions. The solution lies in refrigerating the leftover food overnight and driving it to the soup kitchen the next day. So long as the place where the food is delivered agrees to receive it, Berwick said, YHHAP is not liable.

The initiative has already had a positive impact, Berwick said, adding that she expects to see even more benefits as the program grows.

“The effect two colleges have had now has been great,” she said. “If you think of the program being extended to all 12 residential colleges five days a week, it starts making a difference [as long as] we do it on a regular daily basis.”

Other YHHAP anti-hunger initiatives include Bringing Relief Every Day, which brings leftover bread products to halfway houses — centers for people reentering society after incarceration, mental illness or substance abuse — from dining halls every evening, and Hunger Heroes, a group of undergraduate volunteers at the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen.


  • PC ’10

    It’s about time!! I’ve been saying this idly for the past four years. Kudos to Ms. Berwick for finally taking action. I’m really excited about reducing our food waste and feeding the hungry here in our own community. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

  • AJ

    Well done, Yalies! Like the above poster, I often lamented wasted food when I was an undergrad but never did anything about it. I’m glad somebody has done something, and I hope it will set a precedent for other universities and colleges.

  • Awesome

    Thank you YHHAP!

  • Also

    The Blue Dog Cafe at HGS delivers leftover bagels and muffins to the soup kitchen.

  • Excellent Yale Dining Service

    Excellent work! Now offer figure a way to involve New haven youth in apprenticeship programs at Yale and you’re cookin! with gas.

    My first job out of high school was in the chemistry lab warehouse on Prospect Street across from the Saarinen’s Whale. The place was run by two old-time “characters”, one of whom at 70 was head usher at the Shubert Theatre at night. They knew from memory the location of every piece of thousands of what looked like twisted balloons, only made of glass not rubber.

    I wish Yale could devise an apprenticeship program for disadvantaged youth as a model for the rest of the country.

    We don’t need educational “reform” we need an apprenticeship system as an entryway to the world of work.