Forty percent of food in America is wasted; yet even while we are throwing away edible food, one in eight Americans remain food insecure. This discrepancy between resource availability and need is important now more than ever. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the globe, many food service providers are finding themselves left with surplus food and reduced numbers of customers. Despite this surplus, for many people securing food has become even more challenging.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, COVID-19 has made it harder for many low-income households to afford food, especially considering the virus’s impact on job security, which has caused many people to face a loss of income. Additionally, many soup kitchens and other local community organizations that support people struggling with food security are temporarily closing due to concerns of spreading the virus.

So how can your institution take the lead and help address this issue? The first step is to consider diverting your institution’s surplus food from the landfill and help it achieve its highest potential: feeding hungry people.

In Massachusetts, UMass Boston was left with excess fresh produce and dairy products when the campus shut down most of its dining operations in response to COVID-19. Rather than allow the food to go to waste, UMass Boston was able to work with Sodexo associates, a food service provider, and the Food Recovery Network to divert their surplus food to Food for Free, a Boston-area food rescue organization that redistributes surplus, edible food to food banks, soup kitchens, and other local community organizations.

National Resources

If your institution wants to get started diverting its wasted food, the Center for EcoTechnology (CET) is here to help! CET is an environmental non-profit with over forty years of experience helping businesses and institutions save energy and reduce waste.

CET’s Wasted Food Solutions

CET has created the Wasted Food Solutions toolbox to provide national resources for businesses and institutions to reduce and divert their wasted food. From source reduction, source separation, and food donation guidelines to understanding organics waste bans and providing hauler contracting guidance, Wasted Food Solutions has the resources you need to help your institution’s wasted food achieve its highest potential.

Hear from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst about their experience working with CET and the EPA’s Food Hierarchy to help them divert wasted food in the most responsible way possible.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
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Waste Diversion Challenges

To reinforce waste diversion practices already in place, your institution can participate in the US EPA WasteWise Program, US EPA Food Recovery Challenge, RecycleMania, and the Gameday Recycling Challenge. These challenges are a great way to encourage campus involvement in existing waste diversion programs!

To learn more about food recovery and waste diversion opportunities for your institution, contact CET at (888) 813-8552 or email


Massachusetts Based Resources

In addition to these resources, CET administers RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks), a recycling assistance program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) that helps businesses and institutions reduce waste and maximize recycling, reuse, and food recovery opportunities.

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts

Waste reduction activities like recycling and composting can help decrease environmental impact, save money, improve employee morale, and respond to student demands for sustainable practices. If your institution is located in Massachusetts, RecyclingWorks can provide no-cost technical assistance to help your organization:

  • Evaluate existing waste streams
  • Identify opportunities to prevent, recover, and divert waste
  • Empower employees through education and training
  • Create customized waste bin signage
  • Conduct a cost analysis for starting or expanding a waste diversion program
  • Connect with waste haulers and processors of recyclables and organics

Hear about Massachusetts College of Art and Designopens PDF file ’s experience working with RecyclingWorks to increase their food waste diversion efforts!

MassArt | RecyclingWorks MA Case Study | Colleges & Universities
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RecyclingWorks also produces a newsletter with content tailored to colleges and universities. Sign up for the newsletter here!

RecyclingWorks technical assistance is tailored to meet your institution’s specific needs. We’re here to listen, answer questions, and guide your sustainability efforts. If your Massachusetts based institution would like to get started with technical assistance, call our hotline at (888) 254-5525 or email

Recycle Smart Partner Program

Another program offered through the MassDEP is the Recycle Smart Partner Program. This program can help your institution spread the word about recycling best practices to the campus community through easily shareable social media content, spotlight opportunities, and other resources.


Now is the time to take actions that support the future of our society. Wasted food contributes to larger social, environmental, and economic issues, making it an ideal place to start when considering how your institution can have an impact on the wider community. Universities and institutions continue to be champions of meaningful change despite these challenging circumstances. For more ideas on how your institution can continue leading by example, download Campus Sustainability Best Practices: A Resource for Colleges and Universitiesopens PDF file .