University dining halls donate food to charities

University dining halls have two options when deciding what to do with leftover food from meals: discard the food or donate it.

For at least 30 years, University dining halls have donated uneaten food to local organizations, the main one being the Salvation Army, which operates the Stepping Stone Shelter in Champaign.

“We would blow our budget if we had to pay for all the food ourselves,” said Jennifer Valade, director of social services for the Salvation Army in Champaign.

Valade said the University provides up to half of the food her shelter uses to feed its roughly 50 men who are fed three times a day.

“Generally the individual dining halls will donate between eight and fifteen pans of food at a time, enough to fill the car that the Salvation Army comes in,” said Ann Nelson, unit manager for Lincoln Avenue and Allen dining halls.

Occasionally food is also donated to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank.

Stationed in Urbana, the Foodbank sends the donations it receives to emergency food programs in 14 eastern Illinois counties.

“The Eastern Illinois Foodbank takes only basics, so we give them cheese or whole fruit,” Nelson said. “At the end of the semester we’ll usually send them highly perishable items.”

According to Dawn Aubrey, interim director of dining services, about 5 to 8 percent of the food made for each meal goes uneaten. About 40 percent of leftover food is donated.

“We only donate untouched product … if we have a whole pan of lasagna that has not been eaten, we will donate that but if even one scoop has been taken out of the pan, the lasagna will be trashed,” Aubrey said.

Tina Davis, unit manager for Ikenberry dining services, said once a dining hall has a lot of food ready to donate, they contact the Salvation Army. Each dining hall donates separately.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, Ikenberry has donated food three times: Aug. 17, Aug. 30 and Sept. 6. The most recent donation by Ikenberry included twelve four-inch pans of assorted meat and noodle dishes and eight pieces of turkey.

“At the beginning of the year, we overproduce food slightly because we aren’t sure how much food needs to be prepared. Now that we are more comfortable with how much food needs to be prepared, donations are less often because there is less uneaten food,” said Carrie Anderson, production chef for Ikenberry.

At dining halls like Allen Hall, which has a different method of serving food than halls like Ikenberry and Pennsylvania Avenue residence halls, more food is frozen and donated.

“Allen Hall has more of an all-you-can-eat feel, whereas in Ikenberry and PAR, students are sometimes served their own individual portions,” Nelson said.

“We may make 25 pans of stroganoff, and six won’t be eaten, so they will go into the freezer,” she added.

The freezer in Allen Hall can hold between 10 and 15 pans of food.

Allen Hall has donated to the Salvation Army five times so far this year, the most recent of which was Wednesday.

“It’s a shame to throw away so much good food,” Nelson said. “It’s great we can donate at least some of the uneaten food to places that can use it.”