Despite a Yale College Council resolution calling on Yale dining halls to donate leftover food to local homeless shelters, campus dining halls have largely been unable to do so.
After tracking students’ dining habits, ordering less food, and recycling leftovers, most campus dining halls have virtually nothing left to throw away or give to local kitchens. The October YCC resolution gave rise to the Bringing Relief Every Day program, or BRED, which initially diverted leftover dining hall food to New Haven’s temporary homeless shelter, Tent City.
General manager of Commons Bob Alberino said the lack of leftovers is largely a function of improved technology and increased efficiency. The card-swiping system keeps track over a set time period of exactly how many students are eating in every dining hall, making it possible for dining services to order only enough food to meet student demand.
“After five weeks, we can pretty much tell exactly what the count is going to be at any particular meal,” he said.
Additionally, better cooking equipment makes it possible to prepare food gradually, so more is preserved for subsequent meals, Alberino said. Most of the food that is not saved by reduced buying or gradual preparation is still not ready to leave the school. Whenever possible, dining halls try to incorporate it into the next meal — and students usually end up eating it, he said.
As a result, many of the residential colleges have largely ceased interactions with local soup kitchens, Alberino said. In prior years, there used to be a stronger relationship between the two because the dining halls had more food that would go to waste, said Dining Services Coordinator Janet D’Agostino.
“The relationship is still very good, although not regular,” D’Agostino said.
Commons is one of the few dining halls on campus that has enough leftovers to maintain a donating relationship with the community. Each Wednesday and Friday morning, Father Robert Beloin of St. Thomas More on Park Street and a few students bring soup kitchens the previous days’ leftovers.
Because Commons needs to be wary of passing on hazardous food, Alberino said the donated meals generally consist of pasta, rice, other starches and vegetables. Nonetheless, this limited menu is more than what many residential colleges provide. Berkeley College, for example, has its serving quantities mastered to the point where it only donates food when clearing the kitchen for Winter Vacation or Spring Break. Calhoun College only donates food to soup kitchens when it has leftover food.
Then again, as Atherton explained, keeping unused food to a minimum could be a good thing.
“We really can’t afford to waste,” he said.
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