Supporting the Community with Meal Donations

When Michigan State University (MSU) transitioned to virtual courses in the spring of 2020, the Culinary Services (CS) team had reached the final stage of acquiring the remaining product needed to close out the semester. Acting quickly and remaining diligent, MSU Food Stores and partners across the department collaborated to reduce inventory from $1.8 million to around $750,000.

In addition to leveraging vendor partnerships, capturing and updating a detailed inventory of items, adjusting menus on a weekly basis to utilize product, and developing unique grab and go options, meal donations were coordinated with the MSU Student Food Bank.

Early in the process in March 2020, CS Corporate Chef Kurt Kwiatkowski, Kellogg Center Executive Chef Michael Clyne and Kellogg Catering Executive Chef Rob Trufant led a team operation at Spartan Stadium to use perishable inventory items. As a result, nearly 2,000 meals were produced and donated to the MSU Student Food Bank.

Throughout the 2020-2021 academic year, the team continued to collaborate and meet weekly to review product inventory and plan innovative strategies to prevent waste and practice innovation. From January through April 2021 the teams in Brody Square, South Pointe at Case and The Edge at Akers produced 400 meals each week for donation, including vegan and vegetarian selections. The Food Stores team delivered them the MSU Student Food Bank, which serves Spartan students who are experiencing food insecurity.

While utilizing product on hand, CS chefs had an opportunity to develop nutritious and delicious options that could maintain quality after being reheated and were manageable for the donation quantity and frequency. “In the process of planning meals to share with the community, we had a chance to be creative and determine how to use what was on hand,” shared Sous Chef Emily Swirsky, who works in Brody Square and Heritage Commons at Landon. “The experience has been rewarding and was an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone for a great cause.”

As menus were arranged, Registered Dietitian Kelsey Patterson adjusted recipes in the menu management system to ensure the correct ingredients and allergens were included. Every item shared with the food bank was labeled with ingredients, a use by date and reheat instructions for the recipient. Examples of menu items include rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes gravy and steamed corn; a vegan empanada with Mexican rice and refried beans; and a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw.

Beyond the weekly donations to the food bank, CS joined the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions and other MSU partners to provide 718 meals for the annual Fellowship Dinner to support students who remained on campus over Thanksgiving break.

Our Culinary team is grateful for the opportunity to provide tasty and unique cuisine to Spartans and community members in need. Product was utilized to create and donate more than 6,000 meals in the local area. The department plans to continue supporting campus and the surrounding community with food donations, as we have for many years, to deliver on our mission to nourish, inspire and enrich our Spartan community.