As 1 in 3 Massachusetts households faces food insecurity, it is estimated that Bay Staters discard one million pounds of food per year. To tackle both issues of food waste and food insecurity, Lesley University has partnered with Food For Free – the leading food rescue and distribution nonprofit in Eastern Massachusetts – to repurpose excess food from the school’s dining halls to feed those in need through the nonprofit’s Heat-n-Eats program.
Through Heat-n-Eats, Food For Free takes prepared food from corporate, university, and hospital dining services and turns it into nutritious, balanced, single-serving meals that they distribute to food-insecure populations. These meals are distributed to the community through schools, colleges, homeless shelters, and youth-based support centers. The program packs and distributes more than 1,700 meals per week.
The program was launched at Lesley University at the top of this school year. Food For Free makes biweekly pickups on campus, yielding between 50 and 75 lbs. of food that would otherwise end up in a landfill. University dining hall staff members repackage and freeze the food with support from student volunteers.
“At Food For Free, our core mission has always been clear: to strengthen our community food system through innovative partnerships and programming,” says Jessica Cantin, CEO of Food For Free. “With the Heat-n-Eats program, we’re not just providing meals; we’re weaving a stronger community fabric, emphasizing the profound impact of every single meal. We are grateful to partners, like Lesley University, whose generous contributions are testaments to our collective commitment working toward a hunger-free society.”
Tim Grills, Director of Hospitality at Lesley University, plays a pivotal role in this initiative. With prior experience at Meals on Wheels, Grills oversees all campus anti-hunger initiatives. For Food For Free’s Heat-n-Eats program, he manages dining hall staff members through the entire meal prep process from food collection to repackaging so that repurposed meals are ready for pick-up by the nonprofit.
“To witness the pressing need in our community and on campus and realize that we have the means to ensure someone receives a hot meal is both humbling and outstanding. In a country as affluent as ours, no one should grapple with hunger,” said Grills. “People must grasp that it’s not just one single meal you are providing for someone – the implications run far deeper and resonate much wider.”
Lesley University also operates its own on-campus food pantry, where students can grab free food whenever they need. By the Spring 2024 semester, the school hopes to become a recipient in addition to being a donor of Food For Free’s Heat-n-Eats program to expand access to meals for its 2,000 commuter students.