Pitt Food Recovery Heroes aim to reduce food waste, fight food insecurity


Image via Food Recovery Heroes

Volunteers wrap excess food in Posvar Hall.

By Trevor Weinstock, Staff Writer

Pitt’s dining halls and eateries contribute to the 22 million pounds of food wasted each year on college campuses across the country, but Pitt Food Recovery Heroes is working to solve the problem. Emily Kuntz, the organization’s PR chair, said food waste is a factor in Pittsburgh residents’ struggle with food insecurity.

“Food insecurity is a real issue in Pittsburgh, and Oakland is considered a food desert,” Kuntz, a junior digital media and digital narrative and interactive design major, said. “Oakland residents are in need of food, yet so much is wasted by Pitt’s dining locations every day. As Pitt students, we have an obligation to Oakland residents and the community to do our part.” 

Food Recovery Heroes’ main goal is to recover excess food to donate to local organizations. They take leftovers from vendors around campus, such as Forbes Street Market and Einstein Bros. Bagels, and bring them to different hunger-fighting groups in Pittsburgh. In the past, Pitt Food Recovery Heroes partnered with 412 Food Rescue, the Pitt Pantry and the Family House

Gal Yovel, president of Food Recovery Heroes, said he wants to expand the number of places the chapter donates food to.

“We are hoping to find more pantries,” Yovel, a sophomore neuroscience major, said. “There are a few pantries in the local area that we have reached out to work with, but we are just waiting to see what’s gonna happen. We hope we can work with a lot more pantries and organizations in the area, but it just takes time to plan and organize and to make sure everything goes well.”

The pandemic lowered Food Recovery Heroes’ membership numbers and limited the amount of places they could recover food from, but Yovel said he hopes the group can rebuild to pre-pandemic numbers. 

“The club used to be really big, and we did a lot with the peer recoveries after basketball games, recovering a lot of food with more food organizations,” Yovel said. “So we are trying to regrow to where we were before and expand to those places. Right now, we are really focusing on building back up the club and hopefully expanding the dining locations we recover food from to not only campus locations, but restaurants in the Oakland area as well.”

According to Yovel, larger recoveries, like ones at the Petersen Events Center after a basketball game, haven’t occurred since the beginning of the pandemic. But Food Recovery Heroes still held four smaller recoveries a week last year, and Kuntz said they were still able to collect a lot of food — collecting up to 86 pounds during one recovery.

Kimberly Chen, a junior business information science and finance double major, is also excited about the organization beginning recoveries this semester. She joined Food Recovery Heroes last year because the club’s focus and goals interested her. 

“I thought it would be a really cool club to join because it was a way to do community service, which I had been looking for, and it was for a cause that is relevant to me — reducing food waste,” Chen said. 

Yovel, Kuntz and other board members are still planning this year’s events. According to Yovel, they are almost done planning their first recovery event of the year. 

“We are hoping to have our event [soon], and we are now putting the finishing touches on organizing it,” Yovel said. “Some things we are planning on doing are the same recoveries we have done before, like the coffee shops and bagel shops to get those pastries. We are also hoping to get into the Petersen Events Center after basketball games because that would be a great opportunity, because there is a lot of food that is leftover after those events.”