A program at UC Merced is looking to solve two issues at once: food waste and food insecurity.
The Bobcat Eats Food Waste Awareness and Prevention Program is a food rescue program run by Erin Meyer and two students. The program, the result of a grant from CalRecycle that was requested by the school's Department of Sustainability, is partnered with 20 food donors around Merced.
"There's a lot of food that's going to waste in our county for various reasons, so rescuing food involves going to locations like the grocery store and the food bank and bringing it to those in need," Meyer said.
The team of three spends days of their week going to those 20 donor sites and picking up excess food. They then take the food to one of their 20 food distribution sites, which include pantries and churches around town. Then the food is given to those in need from those sites in a city where 16.7% of adults have food insecurity, meaning they do not have access to nutritious food.
Some of the food also makes it's way back to the university and the Bobcat Pantry, where students have access to a mini-grocery store inside their school.
"Seeing it open this past year and seeing students walking around with their grocery bags and getting free groceries, it's made a big impact, you see kids going home and using the kitchens on campus," said Kaitlyn Aldez, one of the students involved with the program.
The work is needed on campus. According to Meyer, 61% of undergraduates are food insecure and the campus is a food desert, meaning there isn't a grocery store for miles away.
So far, the program has saved over 900,000 pounds of food and distributed it back into the community through their various partners, keeping the food out of landfills (where it would rot and emit methane) and putting it into needy hands.
Meyer says the program is always looking for volunteers and for more businesses to partner with. For more information on how you can get involved and help, contact Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.