The independent news organization of Duke University

Students organize food donation at Marketplace

A new student group has recently found a way to channel excess Marketplace food to a good cause.

The organization, called SavedToGo, has been coordinating the donation of leftover food since Thanksgiving break, and it has recently established Sunday as the regular weekly delivery day.

Hundreds of families at the Durham Rescue Mission and the Urban Ministries have been fed by the service so far, said cofounder Howie Liu, a freshman.

Each donation, which averages between 30 and 80 pounds of food, feeds the entire mission for at least one meal, he added.

Liu recalled that the idea came to him one day while he was eating in the Marketplace with his friends, and he noticed how much food they collectively were throwing away.

"That's a pet peeve of mine," he said, adding that he enlisted the help of a few of his friends to start the program.

The students dabbled with the idea of aligning with a private on-campus operator such as The Loop, but it soon became obvious that the sheer quantity of food at the Marketplace made it the best option.

Liu said managers for ARAMARK, Corp., the University's largest food provider, went beyond what he expected in order to make the project a success.

"We didn't encounter any obstacles in dealing with the people here," he said.

"Everyone seems really happy to help."

North Carolina law protects food providers from liability as long as they are not donating food that they know is unsafe, Liu explained.

Chris Thompson, food service director for ARAMARK at the Marketplace, said it is a no-brainer for the company to donate its leftovers to the community.

"We try to order as best as we can, but we're going to have stuff that we cannot freeze and have to get rid of," he said.

Thompson added that the Marketplace frequently finds itself with excess products on game days when student demand becomes difficult to predict.

Pasta, oatmeal and produce are three of the most commonly donated items, he noted.

SavedToGo is still looking to expand, said freshman Katherine Brazer, the program's other co-founder.

"Depending on what happens with the ARAMARK contract situation we might try to expand," she said, adding that the whole process takes less than an hour on Sundays.

"We just take the trays that [the Marketplace] typically serves buffet style and just empty those into the containers at the Durham Rescue Mission," she said.

A few years ago, there was a similar program, which did not last, Liu explained.

"Once those students graduated it didn't really continue," Liu said. "I want to make this a self-perpetuating program,"

He added that long-term plans include an imminent operation in the Great Hall, Subway and other ARAMARK eateries.

"My real vision is to go down to Ninth Street-a lot of those restaurants have the resources to donate," Liu said.

"There is definitely an unlimited need," he added, noting that the Durham area has many shelters that need food seven days a week. "I'm going to take this as far as it can go."