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Where do the magic bars go?

Why pigs love your dinner scraps

Got too much on your plate? Brown Dining Services does, too — that's why it donated 737 pounds of baked goods to local charities last year alone.

BuDS donates usable leftovers to a number of charities and sends "plate waste" — table scraps from the Sharpe Refectory and the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall — and other unusable leftovers to a local pig farm, BuDS Director of Administration Ann Hoffman wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

According to Hoffman, the scraps — along with extra food from the serving lines, which is not considered safe for human consumption — and trimmings from food preparation are used as animal feed.

While BuDS regularly throws its table scraps to the same farm's pigs, it also donates to local soup kitchens.

Several local soup kitchens receive bakery products that are left unserved or unsold at the end of the day, said Elizabeth Mersereau, production manager and head of the BuDS bakeshop, who personally visits the Providence Rescue Mission on her way home from work and delivers leftover food.

Following Mersereau's example, Alicia Iracks, a bakeshop employee, said she began taking food to Providence's Crossroads Family Center more than a year ago. Iracks said she usually visits the center once or twice a week to deliver food, which ranges from a dozen loaves of bread to cakes, pastries and muffins.

During the holidays, when there is an especially high volume of unused food, she said she often brings food to other centers operated by Crossroads, the state's largest provider of services for the homeless.

The tradition of donating food to Crossroads started as a serendipitous act of kindness, Iracks said.

One day, the bakeshop had a lot of leftovers, but Mersereau wasn't available to make her usual trip to the Rescue Mission.

"We called a lot of shelters and Crossroads picked up," said Iracks, who has been taking food to the center ever since.

Mary House, a local food pantry, is another organization that makes sure the Blue Room's extra muffins don't go to waste. Janice Luongo, executive director of the pantry, said her organization typically receives food from Brown around Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Though the donations she receives from the University are infrequent and inconsistent, she said they are of high quality and greatly appreciated.

"Oh my God — it's like, amazing," she said of the donated food.

BuDS doesn't only support individual charities in Providence. It also donates large volumes of unused ingredients to the Rhode Island Food Bank before closing the bakeshop for winter break, Mersereau said. A lot of fresh food cannot stay in storage for the entire break, she said, so BuDS sends it to the Food Bank to be resold to soup kitchens and charities at a heavily discounted rate.

"I don't want to send something that I wouldn't eat myself," Mersereau said.

People outside of BuDS have also realized that unused magic bars deserve a better fate than being tossed in a dumpster. Almost two years ago, Annajane Yolken '11 started an organized delivery of leftover food from the University's eateries to the City Meal Site, a soup kitchen run by homeless people at the Cathedral of St. John in Providence.

Yolken said she came up with the idea after volunteering at a soup kitchen near her home in Maryland. She noticed other volunteers would bring in food from grocery stores that would otherwise have been thrown away.

"It's really surprising how much food would be thrown away if it weren't donated," she said.

Yolken then began collecting food from local restaurants and grocery stores near her home and decided to create a similar arrangement upon returning to school.

Last year, the student group Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere took over the program started by Yolken and organized weekly deliveries to the City Meal Site, Yolken said.


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