My Story // Our Beginnings

My Story // Our Beginnings

By Erin McGeoy, Founder & CEO

I was inspired to start Last Call after working on the Food Waste Team at the World Wildlife Fund, where I studied the negative environmental and social impacts of food waste.

Almost 1/3 of all food produced globally is thrown out– enough food to feed everyone in the world. This wasted food accounts for as much as 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while unnecessarily wasting precious resources such as land, water, and energy.

As an environmentalist, it hurt my heart to learn about the unnecessary use of our planet’s resources for wasted food. As a collegiate student-athlete who experienced hunger frequently, it made me mad.

I studied Marketing and played Division 1 Water Polo at George Washington University, which was possible due to the academic and athletic scholarships I received, as well as the financial aid package offered to me.

In a city as expensive as D.C., it was difficult for me to financially justify eating 3 meals a day. I signed up for newsletters from different student organizations and university departments to learn about all the events that offered free food on campus, posting my knowledge to a Facebook group I created called Free Food In Foggy Bottom. I utilized our university’s food pantry. I would try to steal an extra protein bar that was offered to athletes after a weights session, which usually resulted in punishment, or I would ask my teammates if they would give me theirs.

I felt ashamed that I could not afford Sweetgreen or Whole Foods on a regular basis, something that seemed to be the norm of my peers. Many of my friends had parents who were able to refill their meal card when they ran out, but that was not a reality for me.

Attending an affluent college when I was far from it was difficult. It also didn’t help that the GW Meal Plan set students up for failure. A GW Dining Student Fellows Report published in 2018 shared that “freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors are allocated $6.10, $4.02, $3.27, and $1.78 per meal per day, respectively. However, GW dining vendors charge students on average $10 per meal, with the university receiving a 10% cut from most vendors. Essentially, students on campus are required to purchase a meal plan and are subsequently forced to spend it at locations where the university is able to make a profit while students go hungry… Many students do not have access to kitchens. The largest freshman dorm has a student to kitchen ratio of 1,116 to 1.”

My family and I could not afford to budget in more money for food on top of what we already paid GW. I was relieved when this report was released, because up until then, I thought I was really bad at budgeting. I also thought I was alone in facing this issue.

Yet after doing more research on hunger, I realized I was not alone. One in eight Americans experienced food insecurity in 2017, which can be defined as the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, and in D.C., 14.5 percent of residents are food insecure. Additionally, a survey conducted by the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness found that 48 percent of college students reported food insecurity in the previous 30 days, including 22 percent with very low levels of food security that qualify them as hungry.

I started Last Call because food waste should no longer be tolerated, food insecurity needs to be talked about more, and we need an efficient solution that decreases both food waste and hunger.

I know from personal experiences and research that many restaurants just trash the surplus food they have at the end of the day. 84% of unused food in American restaurants end up being disposed of, and only 1.4% is donated.

Last Call fills a niche between donation and disposal, and incentivizes restaurants to sell out instead of throw out. Last Call provides more affordable meal options to members of the community beyond what is currently available, and we do this all while helping our planet.

Treat yourself, your wallet, and your world.

Last Call is launching on George Washington’s campus on January 28th 2019.