Service-Learning continues ‘Food Recovery Project’

In 2011, “More than 36 million tons of food waste was generated… 96 percent of which was thrown away into landfills or incinerators.”

This statistic is the first to catch the eye on the informational flyer for the “Food Recovery Project,” headed by Mercyhurst University’s Service-Learning Office this year. The project seeks to prevent usable food from going to waste on and around the Mercyhurst campus.

Bethany Brun, AmeriCorps VISTA in the Service-Learning Office, and head of the Recovery Project, said that the food recovery was initiated when she and Service-Learning Director Colin Hurly were approached by Mercyhurst Sustainability Officer Brittney Prischak in March of last year. Prischak came with the information that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) challenge, which tries to reduce waste on campus, compost and increase recycling, did not feature any food rescue initiative.

“We got on board immediately and met with the dining staff,” Brun said.

Brun spoke highly about Parkhurst’s commitment to “making food in batches” to prevent as much waste as possible. Most of the waste Parkhurst does generate comes from scraps during the food preparation.

“We are not like other schools that have a lot of leftovers,” Brun said. However, the food recovery was “still something that we wanted to try.”

Because there was so little that needed salvaging from Egan Dining Hall, Service-Learning decided to start small and focus on rescuing food from catered events.

“Parkhurst already, after a catered event, brings back all the food. They already repurpose it, or send it to the compost… but anything that can’t go into that compost or can’t be repurposed does get pitched. So we thought… could we rescue that food if it’s still according to the food safety standards?”

The next question was where to donate the food they would potentially rescue.

“We identified the Erie City Mission as the best non-profit to give to because they take all types of food,” Brun said, adding that because the Mission serves the food brought in almost immediately (always serving three meals a day) they were willing accept and use any rescued food donated.

The food, when after being stored by Parkhurst, will then be collected by volunteer students, as well as students in MUSCLE (Mercyhurst University Scholars of Community Learning Engagement) which is a group “of about 20 or so” students, headed by Service-Learning that deals with “various issue areas,” many of them involving food, according to Brun.
Though the project officially began in Sept., as of today catering has produced no unused food in need of recovery.

“…Which is a good thing and a bad thing,” Brun said. “The main goal is to stamp out poverty and reduce waste. Parkhurst is already really great at it, and they do an excellent job. I would hope that we would never have to rescue food from them… But if we do, then we have a place for it.”

For more information about volunteering for the Food Recovery Project, or information regarding MUSCLE, contact Bethany Brun at