Hoping to help provide hunger relief to people in need living in Geneva while also reducing the overproduction of food on campus, Maggie O’Reilly ’16 is launching a pilot project to recover surplus food from Saga Dining Hall that can be donated to the community. After spending the fall semester conducting preliminary research, O’Reilly will begin working with a team of volunteers throughout the spring to collect surplus food from Saga a few days each week.
“The project is intended to both address the over production of food in our dining hall and food insecurity in our community,” says the environmental studies and religious studies double major. “I hope that this project will improve the food system that we are currently functioning under.”
Throughout the fall 2015 semester, O’Reilly conducted research as well as interviews with Sodexo employees and community members affiliated with local hunger relief organizations. The interviews, she explains, helped her gauge how much food never gets consumed, and also provided insight into how the community could receive the greatest benefit through a donation of the overproduced food.
“This project will be a way for our campus to take responsibility for the food surplus we’re generating, whether it’s intentional or not,” explains Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Whitney Mauer. “Rather than just discarding it we’re making something useful out of it – whether that be reusing it on campus or in the community.”
Through starting the pilot project, O’Reilly hopes to continue to “gain perspective from community members about what is important to them in Geneva’s food system, what problems they face and what things are going well.” The goal is to implement a plan that will be most beneficial to both the Colleges and the community.
“I think it’s important to communicate with stakeholders because food access is such a complex issue,” O’Reilly says.
O’Reilly intends to make fellow students more cognizant of food waste and encourage them to take action on their own.
“I hope that the project inspires other students to take initiative with projects that are important to them,” says O’Reilly. “I have been interested in this project for a while, but support from faculty and staff really made it possible.”
O’Reilly is active with other student-run initiatives to improve the food system, including serving as a student leader of the Real Food Challenge Club and as a member of the Sustainable Foods Club.
Above, Maggie O’Reilly ’16 talks with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Whitney Mauer and Geneva Community Lunch Program Coordinator Stu Einstein at a discussion on Food Waste and Recovery in the campus community held at Intercultural Affairs.