According to Feeding America, millions of Americans have faced and will continue to face food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat this, Kent State University continued to support its local community in the fight against hunger by collecting over 20 tons of food between March and August 2020 alone.

As a result, Kent State was awarded the best case study for the food waste reduction efforts category in Campus Race to Zero Waste’s 2021 Case Study Competition.

The focus of the case study was to report on Kent State’s campus and the Kent community during times of food insecurity and the diversion of food waste during the COVID‐19 pandemic. 

Campus Kitchen at Kent State University (CKKSU), one of the largest campus‐based food recovery and distribution operations in the country according to the case study, expanded its operations, recovering 32 tons of food from various donors and two food drives during the 2020-2021 academic year. CKKSU then distributed the recovered food via four weekly on‐campus food pantries, drive‐thru distributions and hot meals.

"One of my favorite components of our organization is that it is truly student-driven,” Kent State’s Community Engaged Learning Director Amanda Woodyard said. “The students who run the daily operations of the Campus Kitchen are so deserving of this recognition of their efforts."

Formerly RecycleMania, Campus Race to Zero Waste is a college and university waste reduction competition to promote waste minimization, especially plastics reduction, and recycling activities on college campuses and in their nearby communities. 

Despite COVID-19, more than 200 colleges and universities competed in the 2021 case study competition resulting in 230 million plastic containers kept out of landfills and 25.8 million pounds of waste donated, recycled or composted.

Judging is based on criteria including creativity, replicability and measurable impact. The competition is managed by the National Wildlife Federation and governed by Recyclemania Inc.

"I love how this case study highlights the many ways Kent State addresses food waste, with feeding people as a first priority,” Kent State’s Sustainability Manager Melanie Knowles said.  “Only food waste that is inedible goes into the Grind 2 Energy system to make renewable energy and to return nutrients to Ohio farm fields.”

From August 2020 to May 2021, 26.1 tons of food was collected at Kent State’s non‐sewer based Grind2Energy anaerobic digester system at the Design Innovation Hub, turning food scraps into electricity, heat or compressed natural gas and fertilizer.

In 2020, it generated enough energy to power 2.6 homes for one month, diverted enough waste from landfills to reduce carbon emissions by 21,238 miles driven and extracted energy from food waste yielded 0.7 tons of fertilizer. 

From January to May 2021, the digestor has almost hit, if not surpassed, last year's numbers. 

Earlier this year, the National Wildlife Federation awarded Kent State University first place in two categories from the 2021 Campus Race to Zero Waste competition: Zero Waste and Electronics Recycling and Total Pounds Recycled. 

Kent State competed against 24 colleges in the Electronics Recycled category and won the Zero Waste category during an eight-week period lasting Jan. 31 to March 27. 

During this time period, a total of 413 people sent 38,316 pounds of electronics to be recycled through an R2 certified recycler, where materials are handled in an environmentally and socially responsible way. 

To view Kent State’s summary case study as well as other winners, visit

To read more about the Zero Waste and Electronics Recycling and Total Pounds Recycled wins, visit

Photo Caption: Volunteers Dave and Terri Cardy pack and weigh produce to hand out at the Campus Kitchen in Beall Hall. The food is mostly donated by Trader Joe’s locations in the Cleveland Area. Photo from Kent State University.


POSTED: Tuesday, September 14, 2021 12:00 AM
UPDATED: Sunday, April 21, 2024 06:16 AM