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How uneaten college cafeteria meals can help fight food insecurity

In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, go inside a cafeteria at Harvard University where student volunteers package 1,200 pounds of leftover food into microwaveable meals for those in need. Special correspondent Cristina Quinn of WGBH reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Believe it or not, Americans altogether throw away about 150,000 tons of food every day. That is about one pound of food per person. It is a staggering figure, considering nearly 13 percent of this country's population experiences food insecurity.

    As Cristina Quinn from PBS station WGBH reports, Boston-area college students are trying to help close the food insecurity gap.

  • Cristina Quinn:

    Lunch just ended inside Harvard's Annenberg Hall. And there's still a lot of food left, but these students are marking sure none of it will go to waste.

    Each week, they help package 1,200 pounds of leftovers into microwaveable frozen meals.

    Environmental studies major Motoy Kuno-Lewis got involved because decaying food creates methane gas, one of the leading causes of climate change. But, of course, there's another reason to do this.

  • Motoy Kuno-Lewis:

    Food insecurity is an issue, and it's a very pertinent issue even in an area like Cambridge.

  • Cristina Quinn:

    The meals are delivered to other schools, like MassBay Community College in Wellesley, where over half the school's population experiences some form of food insecurity.

  • Maxwell Morrongiello:

    So that could mean, you know, people aren't getting enough — simply aren't able to afford food. That could mean that people aren't able to afford healthy foods.

  • Cristina Quinn:

    Maxwell Morrongiello is on the student government's Food Insecurity Committee ,and he also grabs a meal for himself a couple times a month.

  • Maxwell Morrongiello:

    So, just in terms of me being able to make ends meet, it's been helpful. I haven't really suffered from hunger. There's people here who are hungry. And you know that they really don't have access to food at all. And it's very important that they have access to that.

  • Cristina Quinn:

    Students can swing by four days a week and pick up frozen meals free of charge, no questions asked.

    Food for Free, a food rescue group based in Cambridge, launched this program. Executive director Sasha Purpura hopes to make it a model other schools and companies will adopt.

  • Sasha Purpura:

    So this is something that a university in Western Mass., in Worcester, a corporation could do. It enables them not only to stop throwing out perfectly good food. It lets them engage their student population, their employee population in group volunteering activities, giving back to their community.

  • Cristina Quinn:

    Tufts University students also package meals and are among a dozen organizations in the Boston area that donate their unserved food, including Brigham and Women's Hospital.

    This allows Food for Free to churn out over 1,000 meals a week. They deliver these meals to Bunker Hill and North Shore community colleges, in addition to some elementary schools and food pantries. But there's more work to do.

  • Sasha Purpura:

    It's insane. We are throwing away tremendous amounts of food every day. And there are people next door a block away that aren't getting enough food.

  • Cristina Quinn:

    A hunger gap that these folks are helping to close.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Cristina Quinn in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Love to hear these stories.

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