On Wednesday, Feb. 15, Claire Kelloway from Bon Appétit delivered a lecture titled “Trash Talk: A Look at Food Waste with Bon Appétit and Food Recovery Network.”

Bon Appétit is an on-site restaurant company which manages the dining options at St. Mary’s. Since the 1990s, the company has focused on cultivating relationships with farmers and pushing sustainability initiatives.

As a Bon Appétit Regional Fellow, Kelloway’s job is “to spread awareness about social and environmental issues in the food system, share what Bon Appétit is doing about them, and be a resource to students and Bon Appétit teams working on sustainability-related initiatives.” Her visit to St. Mary’s was a regular expression of her outreach efforts as Fellow.

Kelloway’s talk on Wednesday evening came after she had already spent more than a day on campus, speaking at an SGA meeting, participating in class, and meeting with sustainability-related student groups. The audience that received her in Cole Cinema was small but spirited, engaging the speaker and asking questions throughout the event.

Kelloway focused on three main issues: food waste, food insecurity, and food recovery. She outlined facts about each topic before explaining how Bon Appétit plans to address them. The speaker acknowledged that much of the material she was presenting is made by a public relations department, but she asserted that the information presented is still valid and useful.

Kelloway framed food waste as a largely reducible problem. Sell-by dates, she said, are largely misunderstood and lead to both people and retailers throwing out perfectly good food. Grocery stores order more food than will sometimes be sold, because they are institutionally expected to provide a wide variety of options for the consumer. But by far the largest source of waste, according to Kelloway, is food left on the plate.

Kelloway cited that people leave an average of 15% of their food on the plate after eating a meal, and that in fact the food wasted in food service accounts for as much as 20% of the retail food supply. If even just one quarter of all this food wasted in restaurants, grocery stores, and food service companies were donated, she argued, “we could end hunger in the United States.”

One of the largest roadblocks to this goal is the common misconception that entities donating food will put themselves at risk of litigation. Not so, says Kelloway – the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act exists exactly for the purpose of protecting donors. To date, there is no record of anyone in the United States being sued for harms related to donated food.

Bon Appétit’s response to the issues the speaker discussed is their “Companywide Food Recovery Commitment” – that 80% of Bon Appétit accounts will be Food Recovery Certified by 2018, regularly donating excess food to people in need.

Kelloway suggested that students get involved with the St. Mary’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a national organization which happens to have been founded at the University of Maryland. Our campus chapter conducts deliveries of unused food from the Great Room every Wednesday and Friday at noon.

Sally McFadden, FRN President at St. Mary’s, reached out to The Point News to comment. “Hunger is rampant, even in St. Mary’s County. That being said, I truly appreciate Bon Appetit’s support and initiative to limit the waste this school produces. Our dining hall works closely with Food Recovery Network to ensure that nutritious left-overs go to local soup kitchens.”

McFadden recommended joining FRN on their food deliveries. Those who can’t fit that into their schedule, though, “can do countless practical, everyday things: take smaller portions, eat the slightly bruised apple that would otherwise be thrown out, and never take your food for granted. Together we can keep food on plates and out of landfills.”