With the help of an area food shelf, Concordia makes a difference with its leftovers. For the past 30 years, Concordia Dining Services has provided approximately 21,000 pounds of food and beverages to Great Plains Food Bank, Fargo, N.D.
Janet Paul, director of Dining Services, says Great Plains Food Bank acts as a clearinghouse for food donations in the community. It knows where donations are needed the most.
“That’s why it’s so effective,” she says, “because they know what (everyone) needs.”
While Dining Services does all it can to prevent food waste on the front end, leftovers are donated within the confines of food safety standards.
If food never makes it to the buffet line and is safe to eat, employees repackage it, and then label it with expiration dates and instructions for preparation. They then freeze it for donation.
The college was a charter member of the food bank, formerly known as Daily Bread, which is a program of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota.
Jane Grant-Shambaugh, former director of Auxiliary Services, says in the 1980s the college began noticing that its food waste could be put to better use. “We kept thinking about all the food that we had to throw away,” she says.
Grant-Shambaugh pulled together a small group of people to come up with a better plan.
“We saw a need to be able to get our leftover food to our homeless and some of our shelters,” she says. “There was a big need in the community.”
Concordia’s partnership with Lutheran Social Services, as well as the purchase of a refrigerated truck for transportation, meant that Dining Services’ food donations could begin.
Dining Services tries to strike a balance between avoiding food waste and providing enough food for everyone coming into Anderson Commons, Concordia’s residential dining hall, Paul says.
“It’s virtually impossible to hit the nail right on the head every time,” she says, “but we try our hardest.”
They even get multiple uses out of certain foods on campus.
Take bananas, for example. If there are leftover bananas on the fresh fruit bar, Dining Services will use them to bake banana bread.
“If we can use it here, we’re going to,” Paul says.
Leftover items from the Korn Krib or The Maize are also donated to the Gladys Ray Shelter in Fargo.
Guests at the Gladys Ray Shelter are not given a full meal – the shelter serves primarily as a place to sleep. So, individually wrapped muffins and bagels are perfect for their needs.
While food donations by colleges and universities were fairly new in the 1980s, they have become standard across the United States.
“It’s nationwide,” Grant-Shambaugh says. “It’s nice to know that Concordia was on the forefront of getting this done and helping our community out.”