Food Recovery Feature: Anagha Uppal

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UT’s very own Anagha Uppal will be heading to Minneapolis next week, October 25th through 28th, to present at this year’s Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Conference.

Uppal is a Knoxville native and a junior here at UT. This story starts with her freshman year, when she and a friend walked into one of the university’s POD markets in the late evening and discovered the fate of the leftover food.

Shocked that so much good food could simply be thrown away, Uppal thought up a solution. Reaching out to Aramark, UT’s food supplier, she worked with them to come up with a new plan for the leftover food. As opposed to simply throwing perfectly good, albeit no longer fresh, food away, the food is now brought to a large freezer in Thompson-Boling Arena where Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee is able to pick it up and distribute it to the hungry and homeless in the local area.

“It’s been really good the past year and a half,” Uppal explains. It was at this time that she began to work with the Food Recovery Network – a national network of college students committed to fighting food waste. The UT Food Recovery Network works to facilitate the process of recovering perishable food items from dining halls, POD markets, and UT catering facilities – including working with UT Athletics to recover leftover food after football games and other sporting events.

Uppal will take her work on the road with her to Minneapolis to present at the conference. Though it is not her first time attending the AASHE Annual Conference, it will be her first time presenting. Uppal isn’t altogether nervous, however; she is grateful for the opportunity: “it’s a little intimidating, but it’s also very encouraging.” She is riding the “food movement” wave that has captured the focus at UT. “I think our campus is moving towards the food sustainability area a lot,” she remarked. Aramark’s marketing manager encouraged her to present on the program she has built over her college career, and all it has accomplished at UT.

Her work may not seem so complicated, but Uppal has made it clear that it was not an easy process. A part of her presentation focuses on the struggles that she and her partners faced when pushing the campus toward zero waste. “One of the biggest things you will hear time and time again: ‘There is a liability issue,'” – often the greatest hold up for a food handler in joining this movement is the fear that they could be held responsible if the food that they donate makes someone sick – but Uppal was able to work around this by citing law. The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, passed in 1995, eradicates liability and protects the donors from being sued.

With any type of movement, there will be some obstacles, and Uppal is determined to push past them as far as she can for food recovery. “If you really want a zero food waste policy, you have to go through a policy point.” Uppal is pushing for UT to demand a zero food waste contract with Aramark. Her ideal end result would be for zero food waste to be enforced by a policy.

This kind of program not only benefits the Knoxville community, but it could also be beneficial to UT in pushing us toward becoming a Top 25 University.

If you want to know more about food recovery, the Food Recovery Network is always looking for volunteers. You can find them on Facebook, or you can email them at frn@utk.edu.


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