In recent years, food insecurity has become a growing issue on college campuses. According to two sets of surveys conducted in 2011 at University of California Santa Barbra and a university in Oregon, many if not the majority of students face the decision between paying for either education or food one or more times each year.

In an effort to fight food insecurity and reduce food waste, students created the RIT FoodShare. Through profiles on Twitter and Facebook, the RIT FoodShare program allows students to post the locations of free food on campus and helps students to find a free meal and reduce their hunger.

According to Enid Cardinal, the senior sustainability advisor for RIT, the FoodShare program is “a creative solution to food insecurity on campus as well [as] food waste.” She said that the program was created by students last semester, and has two parts: social media pages and the FoodShare Center, which will open this spring. 

The social media element is comprised of a Facebook group and a Twitter account. Cardinal said that events on campus tend to have leftover food that normally can’t be reused and instead goes to waste, but now members and followers of the RIT FoodShare Facebook and Twitter accounts can post where the leftover food is and allow others to take advantage of the free meal. The goal is to have students enable notifications from the group so that they can be updated in real time about where free food is available on campus.

Kelsey Kiefer, a fourth year International Studies and Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety student, is highly active on the site. Whenever Kiefer has found free food on campus, she has immediately posted the location on the Facebook page. “I do it because I know that if I was hungry and there was food in the next room, I would want someone to tell me,” she said.

She also said that she believes the group has made a difference, and she has seen it herself. One of her most recent posts included free food in her office, and she actually saw students come in asking about the free food who had learned about it from the post.

The program was developed by a Campaign Management and Planning class run by professor Kelly Martin last semester. According to Cardinal, associate of the University Dr. Rebecca Johnson came to her with the idea to distribute leftover event food, and they pitched the problem to the class. The original idea was to create the notification system, but Martin says that the students took to the idea and wanted to expand it. “[T]hey’re the ones that said we should do more than this, [that] it doesn’t feel like enough.” The class started planning out the FoodShare Center as a place where students can donate, exchange and pick up food in addition to the social media notification system.

The RIT FoodShare Center is a combined effort by the class and Residence Life. Sharon Kompalla-Porter, associate director for Residential Support and Success, has been part of the combined project since before Martin’s class took over the initial idea. Kompalla-Porter originally wanted to create a “free-cycling place on campus where students could bring items that they no longer had use for, and they could pick something that they might use or want.” After meeting with Cardinal, they decided to merge with the FoodShare Center idea and create a place where students could donate food that they didn’t need and exchange it for something else or take food that they might not have otherwise.

The FoodShare Center is being set up in the ResLife office in Riverknoll with the goal of being as sustainable as possible. In an effort to reuse and recycle, other groups on campus have donated the shelving, and the ResLife office is being rearranged to maximize the usage of the center. To increase donations, boxes have been set up on campus and a number of events will collect and donate canned goods and proceeds to the center. 

According to CNN and the Washington Post, other schools like Syracuse and the University of Missouri already have food pantries, and they are not alone. According to one estimate published by the Washington Post, the number of food pantries on college campuses across the country has increased drastically from one pantry in 2007 and just four in 2008 to 121 just last year. Most of these pantries are located on public and community college campuses, making RIT one of the few private universities with this resource. 

Cardinal listed other reasons why the RIT center is different, too. According to her, none of these other campuses have the social media notification system that RIT has. Typically, these pantries have restrictions such as required proof of need or a limited number of visits or coupons, and they create a record of who visits, which can deter many from using the services. The FoodShare Center plans to do things differently. “Our goal is to make it open to anyone and not make them feel like they have to justify why they need it,” said Cardinal. She also went on to say that St. John Fisher College is currently creating a system based on FoodShare, including the social media element.

As of now, the FoodShare Center is still being organized, but the goal is to open it after spring break. The FoodShare Facebook group already has more than 600 members. To learn more about the RIT FoodShare program, visit the Facebook page at, follow the Twitter at and look forward to the FoodShare Center's opening after spring break.