‘MataBites’ Cuts Food Waste, Food Insecurity

  • Christel Bowen, Maria Elizondo, Sarah Johnson, and Sophia Perida displaying sandwiches on a table.

    The MataBites team showcasing the sandwiches they rescued and redistributed, from left to right: Christel Bowen, Maria Elizondo, Sarah Johnson, Sophia Perida. Photo courtesy of Sarah Johnson.

A new feature of the official CSUN app empowers students to feed themselves while engaging in planet-saving action, all with the help of push notifications.

MataBites is a program that redistributes untouched food from campus events to CSUN community members free of charge, fighting food waste and food insecurity on campus. Sarah Johnson, acting director for CSUN’s Institute for Sustainability, and David Boyns, professor of sociology, created the initiative in 2019 and — after a pandemic-closure hiatus — officially launched in Nov. 2023.

Sophia Perida, a California Climate Action Corps fellow here at CSUN, is currently heading the MataBites initiative.

“The idea that there are people going hungry at the same time as food is making it to the landfill is a double-edged sword,” Perida said. “Those two problems could instead alleviate each other.

“College students are a surprisingly underrepresented group when it comes to food insecurity,” she continued, explaining that the scope of undergraduate food insecurity is still misunderstood and under-studied. “In 2018, there was a survey of CSU campuses that found that roughly 40% of the student body reported some level of food insecurity. It’s been a while since then, but, as it stands, it’s a really pressing issue.”

CSUN has demonstrated longstanding commitment to combating student food insecurity — through the CSUN Food Pantry, MataCare Emergency Grants and more — and MataBites is just the latest campus initiative to tackle the issue. Here’s how it works:

MataBites alerts community members of free food left over from events on campus via notifications from the CSUN app, letting them know when and where to find the food. The food is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. This helps the university inch closer to its zero-waste goal of 95% of waste on campus being diverted from landfills by 2025.

Perida and her colleagues officially launched the program the week before Thanksgiving, during Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Following a Housing Security event at the University Student Union, the MataBites team collected the untouched food and sent out an alert to participants signed up for the service, letting them know about food available.

“We were able to rescue approximately 30 to 40 sandwiches, as well as bags of chips that would’ve otherwise gone to the landfill — and feed people instead,” Perida said.

To sign up and receive alerts of free food on campus via MataBites, CSUN community members should download the official CSUN app, log in with their CSUN credentials, go to “Messages,” select the MataBites channel, and enable notifications.

, , , ,