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Food Recovery Network flourishes at Beloit

March 24, 2017
By Emmy Newman’17
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 Beloit’s Food Recovery Network merged with the Office of Sustainability as part of one of their student work teams in the fall.

“It made more sense to house a FRN coordinator within my Food Team, so that there was continual oversight from students year to year,” says Lindsay Chapman, sustainability coordinator, “especially since I usually have returning students who would know the FRN process from one year to the next. Having the FRN coordinator in my office also allowed the Duffy Program student placed at Caritas to have more freedom and bandwidth to learn from the staff at Caritas rather than working on a singular recurring program.”

Originally introduced to campus by Meghan Bleidorn’14, who worked to make Beloit the first Wisconsin school to join the network. FRN was created in 2011, by students at the University of Maryland-College Park who started exploring options to reduce food waste from their school’s food service. By 2013, Food Recovery Network had full time staff and chapters cropping up in schools all over the country. Today, 206 colleges and universities spanning 44 states have FRN chapters, including Beloit College. Since then the program has continued to flourish on the Beloit campus and in the community.

“We’ve had great experiences with students,”says Donna Ambrose, executive director of Caritas, citing positive interactions with student volunteers bringing food donations to the pantry.

Food Recovery Network strives to help eliminate food waste from college campuses that utilize the cafeteria-style model of serving food to students and thus often end up with prepared food leftover at the end of meals. In order for this food not to go to waste, FRN provides the support system for students to package that leftover food (only food that has been prepared and not served) and take it to a local food pantry where it can be distributed to patrons of the pantry in need. By 2016, FRN estimates of 1.8 million pounds of food have been recovered and redistributed.

A member of the food team, Nissa Parker’18 has taken over the job of coordinating volunteers  this semester to recover food twice a week in Commons and transport it to Caritas. Transitioning into a leadership role following the fall semester’s coordinator, Josie Hirsch’18, leaving for a semester abroad, Parker has had to remake the network with new volunteers, but is hopeful the connection to the Office of Sustainability will help retain a more contiguous structure for FRN from semester to semester.

In an ideal world, “Food would be recovered from Commons every evening,” says Parker. Ambrose agrees more donations would be beneficial for the pantry, saying “Most donations [from FRN] are gone within a day or two.”

FRN helps Caritas as part of its Safe and Healthy Food Pantry Model, a model designed by the University of Wisconsin system extension focused on providing patrons of the food pantry with healthier options. As FRN relies almost entirely on student effort to execute the recovery and delivery, the program will only expand as more students volunteer and devote their time to this worthy cause.