By Steven Doerhoff, Archivist
With Fall break and Thanksgiving only a few weeks away, this time of year always seems to bring with it the heightened awareness of helping those in need. More specifically, it is around this time year that we begin to hear about food drives and donations, for those who cannot afford this necessity that many take for granted. This problem, though, does not stop for the people in need at the end of November, it is a year-round struggle.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the US wastes 30 to 40 percent of the food supply every year. In 2010, this was equivalent to 133 billion pounds of food totaling $161 billion. This amount of waste has huge impacts on both our society and the environment. Instead of this excess food being used to help families, it ends up in landfills; enthroning wasted food as the single largest component going into municipal landfills and helping to make landfills the third largest source of methane in the U.S.
Overseeing all the dining and food operation on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus is Sodexo, a multinational conglomerate that provides quality of life services in 80 countries. With such a large business and diverse range of employees and clients, Sodexo can have a meaningful impact in fighting hunger around the world. By establishing local partnerships, Sodexo seeks an active role in community development.
Operation Food Search is a local St. Louis non-profit organization that is the largest distributor of free food in the bi-state region. Each month the organization donates more than $3 million of free food to the City of St. Louis and 31 counties in Missouri and Illinois. At UMSL, Sodexo has teamed up with Operation Food Search to help those who are hungry in the area.
Laura Carpenter, the retail manager for Sodexo at UMSL, started the weekly donations at the college, bringing it with her from her past job when she began working at UMSL. “When I came here five years ago, I reconnected with Operation Food Search, who then connected us with a food pantry [in the area],” Carpenter said. The food pantry where the excess food can be redistributed is the City of Life Food Bank in University City, which is open every Saturday.
Sodexo founded its Stop Hunger campaign in 1996, working to stop hunger and malnutrition for communities in which they operate through several different initiatives aimed at engaging employees, clients, suppliers and consumers. Through Sodexo’s surplus food redistribution initiative, the college can offer its surplus food to Operation Food Search.
Antonio Mancarella, more commonly known as Chef Tony in the kitchen, is the executive chef for Sodexo at UMSL. Mancarella started at UMSL in 2008 as a sous chef, and when Sodexo took over the food operations at UMSL, Mancarella was promoted to executive chef. Now, he supervises everything in the kitchen, including the weekly donations to Operation Food Search.
“We donate leftover food and they usually pick it up late Friday afternoon or Saturday morning,” Mancarella said. “It’s about 75-100 pounds of food a week that would otherwise be thrown away.”
All the dining options provided at UMSL must be ready for hungry customers, which totaled over 10,000 enrolled, on campus students as of the Fall 2016 semester. This massive number of possible people to feed can create large amounts of leftover food. “With leftover food, we freeze it instead of throwing in out, because at home you and I both eat leftovers,” Mancarella said.
Operation Food Search is not the only foundation that Sodexo is working with. “We also feed Meals on Wheels for [the community of] Normandy where we donate fresh food, anywhere from 22 – 36 fresh meals a day,” Mancarella said.
If students would like to join in to help feed those in need, the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center is holding a November food drive where students are asked to bring in four nonperishable food items. In return, those who donate will receive two free guest passes to the Recreation and Wellness Center. Items from this food drive will be contributed to the UMSL HolidayFest which donates to the Pagedale Beyond Housing Family Support Center here in St. Louis.