Food Recovery


Food Waste and Recovery

Approximately 40 percent of edible food is wasted in Alameda County and nationally. At the same time, approximately 14 percent of Californians and Alameda County residents are food insecure. At UC Berkeley, 42 percent of Undergraduates and 23 percent of Graduate students experience food insecurity. Food recovery efforts on campus have been motivated both by efforts to reduce the environmental impact of waste and Basic Needs.

Food Recovery Coalition

Various departments and students groups have been working on food waste reduction and food recovery for years including Cal Dining, the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC), the Student Parent Association for Recruitment and Retention (SPARR), and the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC).

In Fall of 2017, UC Berkeley’s Basic Needs Committee convened a campus Food Recovery Coalition to bring these cross-campus partners together and develop a comprehensive strategy to recover food at the scale that it is wasted specifically for food insecure students. The vision for this work is to sustain, coordinate and amplify existing efforts to reduce food waste and create structures for safely transporting and repurposing edible food waste specifically for food insecure students.

Some of the major accomplishments of the Coalition and Coalition members since then include:

  • Food Recovery Guidelines: In Fall of 2017, the Berkeley Environmental Law Clinic in collaboration with Environmental Health and Safety developed UC Berkeley Food Recovery Guidelines to establish and ensure safety protocol for food recovery.
  • Cal Dining Recovery: Cal Dining, Copia, Food for Thought and the Pantry are working together to bring leftover food from Cal Dining to the Pantry multiple times per week. The Pantry team repackages the recovered food into single serve containers.
  • Food Recovery Team: The Pantry has established a permanent team of students to support and coordinate prepared food recovery from campus vendors, events, and other activities.
  • Gleaning: The Pantry also has a dedicated gleaning team that is canvassing the Berkeley area and coordinating gleans from backyard trees and gardens.
  • Grocery and Warehouse Recovery: The Pantry has established relationships with a local grocery store, produce distributor and farmers market to regularly recover produce. We are also currently seeking additional recovery relationships with local businesses.
  • Basic Needs Community Kitchen: The Basic Needs Center opened in February 2019 and is planning space renovations to expand the small existing kitchen in the Center into a Community Kitchen for students who don’t have access to kitchen space and as a location to processing gleaned fruit and produce.
  • Student Kitchen: The Food Recovery Coalition supports the Student Kitchen efforts to create a student run kitchen and retail cafe to process recovered food and sell it at sliding scale. Contact Jeff Noven at the Berkeley Student Food Collective for more information.
  • Food Waste Reduction Awareness: Cal Dining continues efforts to reduce food waste in the dining halls and to promote awareness around food waste, including annual “Weigh Your Waste” events. Contact Cal Dining’s Environmental Initiatives Coordinator for more information: Sam Lubow,
  • Vermi-Composting: The Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) is currently doing a pilot at Clark Kerr to compost Cal Dining pre-consumer waste. Contact Sharon Daraphonhdeth for more information:

The Food Pantry records all recovered food coming into the pantry and recovered approximately 16,000 pounds in Fall 2018. The Coalition is continuing to build and develop their efforts. Please contact the Basic Needs Food Manager for more information on how to get involved:

Core members of the Food Recovery Coalition include: Cal Dining, SPARR, BSFC, SERC, Swipe Out Hunger, Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley Student Cooperatives, Cal Greeks, Environmental Health & Safety, Environmental Law Clinic, Zero Waste, Be Well at Work, Cook N Serve, and University Health Services.

Have Food Waste? How to Recover it for the Food Pantry

The Food Pantry can receive prepared or packaged food that meets the following food safety requirements:

  • Temperature Control: food stored at proper temperatures (under 45 deg F or over 135 deg F) and has been at room temperature (between 45 and 135 deg F) for no more than two hours.
  • Transit time: The food is in transit for no more than 30 minutes.
  • Preparation: Food that has been partially served or on a buffet can not be recovered. Food that has been stored and wrapped and not put out can be recovered.
  • Dietary restrictions: food is labeled with any known common allergens (gluten, nuts, etc.) and is labeled if it is vegan, vegetarian, or contains meat.
  • Labeling: please let us know where the food is coming from and when it was produced.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 exempts those who make donations of food and grocery products in good faith to nonprofit organizations (including UC Berkeley) that feed people who are hungry from liability for injuries arising from the consumption of donated food.

There are two ways to get the food to the pantry:

  1. If you are able to drop off the food, you can drop it off during the Pantry open hours. Location: MLK Student Union # 68, B-North (enter across from Cal-1 Office and do down the stairs/elevator). Hours: Monday, Thursday, and Saturday 10AM – 4PM; Tuesday: 11:30AM – 4PM; Wednesday: 10AM – 8PM.
  2. Coordinate a pick-up with our food recovery team if you have a large event (minimum of 40 attendees). Contact for details.