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Ohio State students bring efforts of national organization to campus to prevent food waste, help those in need

It’s almost winter, which means students across Ohio State’s campus will find themselves worrying about upcoming exams, freezing weather and wondering whether the football team is going to make it back to the College Football Playoff.

Most students, however, won’t have to worry about saving the scraps on their plate for a leftover meal or secondary use.

Americans waste billions of pounds of food each year — 40 percent of the food produced in America is thrown away each year, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. This issue hits home, as well: 13 percent of the material in Columbus landfills is food waste, according to the Columbus & Franklin County Local Food Action Plan website.

That’s why Zach Dorner, a third-year in marketing, and Troy Fritzhand, a third-year in finance, teamed up with the Food Rescue US, a nationally established program that takes excess food from grocers and restaurants, and delivers it to local food banks and shelters through a network of volunteer drivers.

The pair reached out to Food Rescue US and then created a chapter at Ohio State to prevent food waste on campus, in addition to Columbus.

Dorner’s sister told him about Food Rescue US. She works at a grocery store in Illinois and told him about the massive amount of food being thrown out each day.

He said the food waste “boggled” his mind, and he wanted to do something to change the practice. So, Dorner and Fritzhand started looking for a solution.

“We went around to different stores and restaurants trying to see if we could bring their extra food to homeless shelters, but it wasn’t until we went to North Market,” Fritzhand said. Again, the pair was told of Food Rescue US, confirming its importance in the Columbus area and eventually leading its creation at Ohio State.

In its first semester of existence, Food Rescue US at Ohio State has only five current members, but Dorner and Fritzhand expect that number to increase.

“I feel like that is where we will see our first growth spurt,” Dorner said.

The different establishments donating to Food Rescue US vary based on location, but the process is still the same. Individuals who want to get involved with the program can download the Food Rescue app, register and claim a delivery whenever it is convenient for them.

Columbus locations partnered with Food Rescue US include Hot Chicken Takeover, Dickey’s BBQ Pit and Flowers & Bread.

Dorner said student-drivers use the app specifically to locate and receive food from places like Bruegger’s on campus that schedule pick-up times, and then can deliver the extra product to local food banks and homeless shelters.

“They have all the food ready, but they don’t have enough people driving to give it to everyone, and with a campus of this size, I feel like that has to be something we can change,” Dorner said.

As of now, the chapter does not pick up food from university dining halls or restaurants, but Dorner said he and other members have been reaching out to other student organizations, like The Food Waste Fighters at Ohio State, who work with the university in a similar collaboration to further reduce food waste.

“Our goal is to see how we can help each other,” he said.  

To incentivize students to join Food Rescue US at Ohio State, Dorner and Fritzhand have also developed a system to reward drivers for their participation.

Drivers are charged a $10 sign-up fee, which goes toward rewarding the driver who makes the most deliveries with a $25 gift card to a local restaurant, and a reimbursement on gas money.

Fritzhand said seeing the impact of helping others first-hand is emotionally moving.

“In general, it’s just sad to see all these people starving, especially those that are starving locally,” Fritzhand said.

Dorner said though the chapter is young, student interest in the cause has been moving, as well.

“Seeing that people actually agree with the goal of the club and want to help and get involved is really rewarding,” he said.

 

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The Engaged Scholars logo accompanies stories that feature and examine research and teaching partnerships formed between The Ohio State University and the community (local, state, national and global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources. These stories spring from a partnership with OSU’s Office of Outreach and Engagement. The Lantern retains sole editorial control over the selection, writing and editing of these stories.

 

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