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Food4VOLS Receives $50,000 Kitchen Storage Makeover

“No hunger. No waste.”

That is the mission of Food4VOLS, in addressing both food insecurity and food waste challenges on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus. Housed in the UT Culinary Institute and Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management (RHTM), Food4VOLS not only helps alleviate food insecurity among students and the UT community, but it also focuses on sustainability. By upcycling surplus food into nutritious, visually attractive, and ready-to-eat meals, two critical needs are met with one initiative.

Now, Food4VOLS is the recipient of the 2024 Kitchen Storage Makeover from Foodservice Equipment and Supplies valued at $50,000. Tyler White, Director of the UT Culinary Institute and assistant professor of practice of RHTM, and his Food4VOLS team were selected from over 70 entries from across the United States.

The Kitchen Storage Makeover team will visit campus in early May to review efficiencies of Food4VOLS and make recommendations. Metro Products will then assist with the makeover with equipment installation taking place over the summer. Currently, about 350 meals are served daily through several distribution sites on the UTK campus. Thanks to funding provided by Danone Institute North America, by fall 2024, Food4VOLS expects to ramp up production to 600 meals daily from increased access points.

“We are still learning as we go,” said White. “We could not accomplish these without dedicated staff and volunteers for Food4VOLS. We extend our gratitude to them and look forward to improving our space and continuing to support our mission.”

“Food4VOLS is such an innovative program mitigating challenges in today’s college campus,” said Junehee Kwon, Department Head of RHTM. “Winning this contest proves that the mission of Food4VOLS is recognized and valued by others,” Kwon continued. “Food4VOLS is partially funded by the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, along with fundraising events and generous donations. Receiving new equipment through this contest will allow limited funds to be spent directly for the food-insecure.”

White’s passion for finding solutions to food insecurity and sustainability has made Food4VOLS a leader and model for other universities. In fact, a recently funded USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant, led by Kwon and White, will use Food4VOLS as a model to reduce food insecurity and food waste, while teaching food security challenges at UTK, University of South Carolina, and Montana State University.

White is hopeful that Food4VOLS will soon be a household name on college campuses as a solution to food waste and hunger. Knowing his passion for this mission, there’s little doubt this vision will become a reality on a grander scale in the future.