UW-Madison College Students Raid the Refrigerator in Search of a Different Kind of "Fast Food"

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) Nestled in among the vending machines in the Student Activity Center on UW Madison's campus, there's an unlikely form of fast food.

Carrying in bags to stock a bare refrigerator, UW-Madison senior, Hannah DePorter, never imaged her idea would take off like this.

"Lettuce is a very popular item, which is great because we have an aquaponics farm that does donate to us," said DePorter.

Lettuce? Probably not what you were thinking when you read "fast food." Hundreds of pounds of produce a week are left for student and staff. It's all free and part of the UW Food Shed. The food comes from produce leftover from UW-Research projects and area farmers who donate their excess.

On this particular trip with DePorter, she stocked the fridge with beets, squash, and rhubarb. Once she posted on Facebook, three students showed up within minutes.

The seed for the UW Food Shed program was planted after DePorter worked a few research jobs on campus and saw how much produce was being thrown into a compost pile or just left in the ground. She knew she had to do something, so she enlisted the help of UW-Madison Horticulture Professor, Irwin Goldman.

He helped DePorter's dream grow by applying for Kemper Knapp Bequest Grant which paid for four refrigerators. He thought her idea of using left over produce from UW-Research and getting it into the hands of students and staff was brilliant.

"I've worked for 25 years and I've noticed that every year we have bags of sweet corn, potatoes overflowing on the table in the hallway -- it just makes no sense," said Goldman. "Hannah was the first person in all of these 25 years to say 'Lets actually do something about it.'"

UW Food Shed launched in June 2017 and more than 1,200 people follow the produce updates on social media. While DePorter isn't sure just how many people she is helping, she knows many are taking advantage of the service as the refrigerators are wiped clean. "It just feels really special knowing that all of this food that would otherwise be left in the ground or composed is going to the hands of individuals who may not have had enough food to eat that night or may not have access to this produce," said DePorter.

Copyright: WMTV 2017