Food donations
Food donations

Chapter chairs from a newly established Greek sustainability committee came together to collect food leftovers from University of Maryland fraternity and sorority houses Friday afternoon.  

The 100 or so pounds of food collected from 13 chapter houses were donated to Christian Life Center, a Riverdale church that feeds the homeless every other Monday, said Errin Saunders, a co-founder of the committee.

In its first year, the sustainability committee has made it a goal to affect Greek life while giving back to the community in some way, Saunders said. The committee discussed collecting leftover food at its first meeting in mid-September.

“We knew creating a committee like this had been tried before but did not work,” said Saunders, a junior environmental science and policy major. “There was limited long-term interest. We really cared about making something real and impactful.”

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The university’s Panhellenic Association gave the group a grant to purchase and provide foil pans for leftovers to each chapter house. The pans were delivered to a sustainability representative from every chapter Wednesday night. 

Haja Savage, the committee’s other co-founder, said the organization first wanted to donate the leftover food to the Food Recovery Network, a national organization that challenges college students to donate food that would otherwise go to waste. However, the network collects food at 9 each night, and Savage said some students have not yet had dinner by that time.

“Some chapter members would come in later to eat,” said Savage, a junior Arabic studies and government and politics major. “The way we did it, we had food pickup happen between 12 [noon] and 2 [p.m.]. … This way we received more food.”

Savage said the group drew inspiration for the project from chapter chefs’ tendency to throw away leftovers from each night the following morning. 

“The morning after everyone has dinner, chefs in many chapter houses throw away the leftovers,” Savage said. “We wanted to work on food waste. Every house [that uses Gill Grilling, the fraternity and sorority meal service] has the same meals. Some of the more unpopular meals have the most leftovers, and we want to turn those into donations.”

Corey Abrams, a member of the committee, said the first project was a test to see how much food could be collected. For the remainder of this semester, the organization will focus on composting. In the spring, it will turn its attention to informing new house managers how they could help the sustainability committee reach its goals.

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“This was our beta test,” said Abrams, a senior mechanical engineering major. “We wanted to first see if sororities and fraternities would help us out, and they did.”

Saunders, who serves on the Student Government Association’s Student Sustainability Committee, said the SGA has tried to collaborate with Greek life in the past but has not had much success.

“People who started those projects didn’t finish them,” Saunders said. “That’s why we started to separate. These are two different groups of people.”

In January, the committee will send a grant proposal to the Department of Fraternity & Sorority Life for a sustainability grant that would be used to purchase more waste bins. Savage hopes to have at least one representative from every chapter on the committee by the end of the academic year.

“While you could say this is great for the environment, some people don’t care about the environment,” Savage said. “At the chapter meetings, we hope at least one person comes out interested and wants to help us out. From there, we could work on expanding.”