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Friday, September 20, 2019
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Free Food on Campus to Go Viral

From now on, no leftover carrot sticks need ever get 86ed thanks to Emerson Food Cam, a new initiative from the Office of Sustainability aimed at cutting back on food waste and increasing access to free snacks.

The Food Cam will take photos of food brought to a central drop-off area and send them out in real time via social media, alerting peckish students, staff, and faculty that they have 30 minutes to come and get it. 

“There’s a lot of food that ends up going into the trash because composting is not readily available, and lots of times, it’s edible food,” said Amy Elvidge, campus sustainability coordinator and the brains behind Food Cam. “We want to eliminate food being wasted, and we want to provide it in a safe way to others.”

Here’s how it will work:

In an effort to bribe members to come to your committee meeting, you had it catered, ordering a variety of wraps, veggies and hummus, salad, brownies, and a fruit platter.

The fruit platter was overkill.

Rather than tossing it in the garbage or letting it ferment in the department fridge until it becomes a controlled substance, you wrap it up tightly and take it down to Piano Row, to the designated Food Cam space next to the first-floor print center. (You have done all this within two hours of receiving the platter, because you are mindful of USDA guidelines.)

Setting the platter down, you may choose to fill out labels allowing you to describe the fare in more detail (allergens, ingredients, yumminess). You then push the Food Cam button and walk away, confident that scores of Emersonians will see the fruit on Instagram, Twitter, Slack, and/or Snapchat (by following EmersonFoodCam) and be lured to Piano Row by the promise of free food and antioxidants.

Thirty minutes after Food Cam snaps the pic, Sustainability staff and EcoReps, who are monitoring the situation remotely, will take whatever fruit is left (the honeydew) and compost it.

Waste averted, stomachs filled, planet happy.

Large amounts of leftover banquet food currently are donated to St. Francis House, a nearby center for homeless people, and that will continue, Elvidge said. Likewise, you shouldn’t use Food Cam to clean out your residence hall fridge or unload unfinished snacks before class.

“This is for two platters of food, not a half a bag of Skittles,” she said.

Elvidge said for a while now, she’s wanted to start a #freefoodemerson hashtag to get more people sharing leftovers, but in talking to custodial staff, she realized there were concerns about food getting left in random spaces and creating issues.

Then she found a video on the web about a food cam at MIT that dated back to 1999, but only served one building on campus. Elvidge decided she would start what she believes may be the first campus-wide food cam system.

“This is a great way to build community, increase opportunity for food donation, and increase opportunity for Emerson community members to get food for free,” Elvidge said.