Huskie Harvest aims to combat food waste


Courtesy of Nancy Prange

Stacia Tietje (left), a dietetic intern, and Nancy Prange, dietetic internship director, with packaged food collected by Huskie Harvest. Huskie Harvest was launched on Feb. 1 by Prange, in collaboration with Campus Dining Services.

By Madelaine Vikse, Editor-in-Chief

DeKALB – Huskie Harvest is bringing food from table to pantry in order to help combat food waste at NIU.

Huskie Harvest is a program that collects leftover food from catered events at NIU, packages it up into individual meals and gives it to the Huskie Food Pantry.

In collaboration with NIU Campus Dining Services, Nancy Prange, dietetic internship director at NIU, launched Huskie Harvest on Feb. 1. 

“Because of my role as the internship director, one of the places that my students work is in campus dining, so they do a food service management rotation,” Prange said. “One of the things that we can always notice is the leftover food.”


Right now, Huskie Harvest only collects food from catered events at NIU.

“Most of our events on campus are like a buffet style,” Prange said. “When you have a buffet, you have to kind of plan to have extra food, so there’s always leftover food … prior to February 1, this food would have been thrown away.”

Huskie Harvest has collected over 1,000 pounds worth of food and has packed over 1,000 meals for the Huskie Food Pantry, according to Prange. 

“Our catering director (Abby VanWieren) lets Dr. Prange know that we have leftover food and they know where all the stuff is in the kitchen and they can just come in, package it, label it, put it in the freezer,” said Dan Koenen, executive director for Campus Dining Services.

When the food is packaged, it is labeled and includes potential allergens and, depending on what food it is, reheating instructions. 

Some of the food items collected include soups, lasagna, vegetarian items and more.

Food packaged and labeled by Huskie Harvest, ready for students to take. Huskie Harvest has recovered over 1,000 pounds of food and has packaged over 1,000 meals to give to the Huskie Food Pantry. (Courtesy of Nancy Prange)

“We do have a very serious food insecurity issue on campus,” Prange said. “Every Huskie deserves healthy meals and so if Huskie Harvest can help students take one thing off of their to-do list or their, you know, list of worries that they have to do, that to me is the goal.”

Jeanne Baxter, the assistant director of the Huskie Food Pantry, said the pantry gets most of its food from the Northern Illinois Food Bank. 

“With the economy, we’ve really taken a hit, the food bank has really taken a hit,” Baxter said. “When I first started I felt like we had enough canned corn and beans to feed the entire town. It’s not that way anymore.” 

Koenen said the idea of Huskie Harvest is something that he and Prange talked about prior to COVID-19. 

Huskie Harvest started off as a project for a health class. Prange was in charge of coming up with the name, and that’s when she thought of Huskie Harvest.

“I wanted to include Huskie or something with NIU in it,” Prange said. “It just seemed like it sort of fit in that, the gathering aspect to it and like the bounty and the sharing of it, those are all things that I think come to mind when you think of harvest. It just felt right.”


In the future, Huskie Harvest aims to grow the program and recover food from Qdoba, Starbucks and the campus dining halls.

Prange said students should keep Huskie Harvest on their radar as the program expands.

“One of the things that I’d like to start in the fall is a chapter of the Food Recovery Network,” Prange said. “This would be a student-run program that they’d be able to join that and then be able to help recover some of the food, to pack the food, to help deliver the food. Right now, we’ve been doing really well with myself and my students; but as the program grows, we are absolutely going to need more students.”

Prange said she thinks students would be interested in getting involved because they can look at it from a place of wanting to help combat food insecurity or from a place of wanting to do something to help the environment.

Prange said Huskie Harvest is hoping to create a website soon and that it would be under the Division of Student Affairs or Campus Dining Services, connected with the Huskie Food Pantry.