ISU Dining leftovers help those in need


Kevin Larson/Iowa State Daily

Karen Otto, head cook at Hawthorn Market and Café, stands in front of a display that contains food options that ISU Dining can donate to Food at First in Ames.

Kassi Manternach

Iowa State has partnered with Food At First in Ames to donate the dining centers’ leftover food. 

Iowa State has four dining centers, 11 cafes, three convenience stores and a catering service. They serve thousands of students each day and always have leftover food at the end of the day. 

Food At First is a free meal program and food pantry that serves the community seven days a week. There are no requirements and no questions asked for those who use the services. Most meals served are evening meals, and all are served at First United Methodist Church in downtown Ames.

They serve 25,000 meals a year and feed another 40,000 people through the food pantry. The leftovers from Iowa State may be used in their pantry or later that day in their meal program.

The program was started by a group of honors students in 2010 said Nancy Keller, director of Campus Dining Services. The students were the ones who did the research and got connected with Food At First.

“By partnering with student organizations it helps us find places to partner with, and students do the research that we might not otherwise have time to do,” said Kent Davis, communications specialist for ISU Dining.

Through leftovers from the dining centers, Iowa State donates hundreds of meals each month. A crew of volunteers from Food At First come to the c-stores to pick up food each day and leftovers from ISU Catering twice a week. They also receive the leftovers from home football games and the produce and perishable food items from ISU Dining at the end of semesters.

“I don’t know if we’d be able to accomplish what we do without the help of student volunteers,” said Chris Martin, director of Food At First.

The ISU Dining is continuing research on how they can do the same type of partnership with Iowa State’s catering program. They have done some trial runs that have been successful in providing the leftover food from the catering service to Food At First.

“We’re looking at baby steps,” Davis said.

There are many different organizations across campus that participate in helping Food At First including: ISU Mortar Board, ISU Pre-Med Club, ISU Dairy Science Club, ISU ROTC, CyServe, the Freshman Honors Program, the biochemistry learning community and many others.

Iowa State makes huge contributions to Food At First and the people they serve, Martin said.

Not only do the leftovers go to Food At First, but there are campus events year-round that benefit the organization as well.

“It’s perfectly good food and we’re glad people can use it,” Davis said. “It’s great to have students like this on campus who want to make the world a better place.”