Disposed dining to be donated by Chartwells


Senior Reporter

Chartwells at Oakland University has begun donating some of its excess food to the food rescue program Forgotten Harvest, thanks to an initiative started by some OU students.

Chartwells, OU’s official food vendor, provides cafeteria services to Pioneer Food Court and Vandenberg Dining Hall, has exclusive catering rights in the Oakland Center and caters food to many events held throughout campus.  

Joel Baetens, an electrical engineering major at OU, is one of the students who helped start this development and said his personal experience was a factor.

Baetens said that there were times in his life when food was scarce, and he was sleeping in cars in church parking lots.

“What I learned is that I need to be thankful for everything I have. Therefore, when I am eating, I try to eat everything I put on my plate,” he said.

Baetens said his attitude towards food waste got the attention of Stephanie Bair, a fellow OU student, while they were at an intervarsity summer camp.

He said he was eating anybody’s food that they were going to throw away. When Baetens ate dinner in the Vandenberg Dining Hall, he said he saw food being thrown away nightly. When he explained the situation to Bair, he said she “vowed right there to help me make a difference on campus.”

They began to work on their proposal to Chartwells and OU in the summer of 2008, by talking to other students, faculty and their families.

When the proposal was ready, they sent OU President Garry Russi, OU benefactor Dennis Pawley, Oakland Center Director Richard Fekel and head of OU Chartwells Andrew Willows each a copy explaining their plan to ask Chartwells to donate.

“Since Andrew was the one to make the decision, we asked him to be generous and help make donations of foods determined to be safe for reuse,” Baetens said.

The proposal quoted part of OU’s mission statement about helping the community, and suggested that OU could serve as an example for other schools to follow.

Ultimately, the proposal succeeded, and Chartwells began donating food around the end of the fall semester. A total of 385 pounds of food was donated last semester.

Since last semester, Chartwells has also begun donating unused food to Fogotten Harvest, thanks in part to students Joel Baetens and Stefanie Bair. This semster, they’ve continued donating unused food every Friday and after catered events.

“All the Chartwells employees are great to work with, and I think they are genuinely interested in helping people by reducing waste,” Bair said.

The OU branch of Chartwells has become one of over 350 organizations that donate to Forgotten Harvest, which Food Donations Relations Manager Demetrius Anderson says is a food rescue organization, not a food bank.

According to Anderson, the difference is that food rescue transports food directly where it’s needed, with 80 percent of the pickups taken out the same day.

“It could end up at Focus Hope, it could be taken out to the Baldwin Center in Pontiac. There are many different places it could end up.

Anderson said that where the food goes also depends on the needs of the agencies that receive it.

“Our drivers are acquainted with the needs of the emergency food pantries,” he said. “They know if there’s been a request for a certain kind of food.”

This semester Chartwells will be doing pickups for Forgotten Harvest with surplus food on Fridays, before breaks and after catered events.

Baetens said the next step he would want to see is daily pickups, or possibly getting other schools involved.