Harvard University Dining Services’ Crista Martin was named a Cambridge Food Hero at Cambridge City Hall last week.

Martin, who is director for strategic initiatives and communications, was instrumental in the launch of the Harvard Food Program. The Harvard program partners with the local nonprofit Food for Free to address chronic hunger among its neighbors. Martin accepted the award together with Food for Free’s Executive Director Sasha Purpura.

“I am amazed at the energy, time, and resource Harvard puts into making sure this is successful,” said Purpura.

Through the partnership, Harvard donates nearly 2,000 nutritious meals each week to families in need. To ensure that breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available for every undergraduate student, Harvard University Dining Services regularly purchases more food than is actually consumed. In the past, excess fresh food was composted. The new program instead donates untouched, surplus food to local families. In the program’s inaugural year, Harvard was able to donate more than 58,000 pounds of food — or 45,000 meals — from the dining halls and catered events.

Making the most of meals

“We are incredibly proud of Crista and the entire Dining Services team for their hard work on this effort, and are thrilled with the ongoing success of the program,” said Kevin Casey, associate vice president for Harvard Public Affairs and Communications. “The Harvard Food Program, and our partnership with Food for Free, assures that any excess food from our 14 dining halls will not go to waste, and instead will go to those of our neighbors who need it most.”

The program “sets an example of what this type of partnership can be, to not only Cambridge, but to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Cambridge Mayor David Maher.

The Harvard Food Program builds upon the University’s long history of community engagement, which includes extensive partnerships with local schools and city officials to create and preserve affordable housing.