Brinda Penmetsa is a member of the Bonner Leaders Program in the University of Houston Honors College. She leads a student effort called Campus Kitchen, which collects the unserved, leftover food from the UH dining halls and distributes them to area communities.
"We identified food waste as an issue because we saw people in the community who could benefit from this project," she said. "This unserved food would have otherwise been thrown away."
Five days a week, teams of Bonner Leaders collect the food, weigh it, record its temperature, and store it briefly before distributing it. In its first month, Campus Kitchen collected more than 800 pounds of food.
"A big reason we decided to pursue an effort to alleviate hunger and combat food waste is that, as Bonners, we are committed to serving," Penmetsa said. "While at UH we serve 10 hours a week, and it's a four year commitment. We really want to build a Tier One culture of service."
Bonner Leaders is a service-learning program where students spend four years engaged in their community, aware of its needs and ready with creative ways to serve
"The data say very strongly that service-learning students are the best students on campus. They're the most engaged. Their grades are higher. They're completing more semester credit hours," said Andrew Hamilton, Honors College Associate Dean for Student Success and co-director of the Bonner Leaders Program. "They're having formative experiences that get them ready for career, for life and for continued service, even if it's not their job."
The USDA recently announced a challenge to reduce food waste by 50 percent by 2030. The UH Bonner Students want to do that now, beginning with communities surrounding their university.
"I always tell them that by the time they graduate they should have won a victory for the people of Houston," Hamilton said.
Campus Kitchen and Bonner Leaders are part of what's happening at the University of Houston. I'm Marisa Ramirez.