Long ago, Sherwood Frey learned a rhyme about the seasons of life that has particular resonance for him these days. It goes like this: The first 30 years are for learning, the second 30 years are for earning, and the last 30 years are for returning.
“I am now in that last 30,” says Frey, a professor in the Darden School.
In the spirit of returning something to the community, Frey is seeking to bring a Campus Kitchen to the University. The concept is disarmingly simple: redistribute the surplus and leftover food from University dining halls to people in the community who would otherwise depend on public assistance for their food.
Like many people, Frey was struck by the amount of food that is discarded at the end of meals and events all over Grounds. Once, he even inquired about what might be done to recycle it. “I ran into a brick wall of public health laws,” he recalls.
Later Frey saw a story about a Washington, D.C., student named Robert Egger. His idea was to collect the surplus food and reprocess it before redistributing it. Reprocessing—essentially, creating a new meal—in a commercial-style kitchen gave the local health department something to inspect, and in 1989 the D.C. Central Kitchen was born. Ten years later, the program merged with a similar effort at Wake Forest University and went national; today, there are 10 Campus Kitchens around the country.
Frey contacted the organization’s leaders and learned that they were in talks with several national food-service operations, including Aramark, which is responsible for UVA’s dining enterprise. Coincidentally, they had talked about UVA as a possible expansion site.
Encouraged, Frey enlisted the aid of some Darden students to write a business plan and applied for Darden’s John Colley Award, an arm of the Mead Endowment, which is administered through the Alumni Association’s UVA Fund. The Mead grants, established in honor of professor emeritus Ernest “Boots” Mead, fund projects that bring faculty and students together outside the classroom. The $2,000 Colley Award, combined with a grant from Campus Kitchens, should fund a feasibility study and help launch the project, Frey says.
Frey held an exploratory meeting with local Aramark representatives in December and received an enthusiastic response. There are still many hurdles to clear, but Frey’s goal is to have a UVA Campus Kitchen up and serving meals by the end of the spring semester.