Photo by Téalin Robinson
Campus Food Shed provides free, healthy produce for UW community
Stocked food shed refrigerators around UW-Madison regularly provide free, fresh food for the taking with produce from local grocery stores, campus laboratories and restaurants.
Started by former UW-Madison student Han DePorter, Campus Food Shed provides an outlet for excess food that would otherwise go to waste on campus. It also makes affordable, healthy food options available for UW-Madison community members.
People can visit sheds at the Plant Science building, Science Hall, the Student Activities Center and Allen Centennial Gardens to pick up free produce.
“We’re providing food for our community and generally people are grateful that it’s there.”
The food comes from laboratories on campus when agriculture researchers have excess. Grocery stores or restaurants that have too big of an inventory or food nearing their sell-by date will also make donations.
Campus Food Shed Director Shayna Moss said the produce they receive is always safe for community members to eat. She emphasized that the sell-by date is arbitrary, usually just a signifier for businesses to know when food was checked into the store or restaurant.
UW-Madison horticulture professor Irwin Goldman, said the food sheds aim to help students with food insecurity on campus, providing a variety of free options to those who may not have the means to purchase groceries regularly.
“This is a great way to supplement their diets and do it in a way that’s local and healthy,” Goldman said.
Moss agreed with Goldman, sharing that the Food Shed isa way for those with food insecurity to anonymously access healthy food.
She said that students have reached out to her showing appreciation for the food sheds. In fact, one shared that they were going to buy a dollar burger because they were short on money, but instead stopped by a Food Shed to get a salad and fruit for free.
The project was originally funded by a Kemper K. Knapp Bequest grant of $5,000 for the refrigerators. Now all the food is supplied through campus’ food excess or local partnerships.
At the start of the fall 2018 semester, the program partnered with Fresh Madison Market. Moss said a majority of the “high quality” produce is provided by Fresh.
“We get boxes of organic lettuce, apples, pears, bags of carrots, bags of snap-peas, organic strawberries, all amazing produce that is expensive in the store,” Moss said.
Goldman said the demand for free food on campus exceeds the quantity of excess produce available. Moss estimates the food sheds receive 400 pounds of produce a week from Fresh alone.
“When we fill [the fridges] one day, they’re empty the next,” Moss said. “We’re providing food for our community and generally people are grateful that it’s there.”
The food sheds came about in collaboration with other organizations on campus including Campus Kitchen and Food Recovery Network, as part of the Campus Food Recovery Initiative. Together they act as a network to provide free, hot meals to the campus community.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, the organizations volunteer to prepare meals at the Crossing, a Christian center on campus. The meals are free to the public and are made with the same excess food that is contributed to the food sheds.