How did you become involved initially, and what is your current role in West Virginia University’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network?
I became involved with the FRN as a co-founder of our school’s chapter. My friend Melissa Hernandez and I met each other because we both applied for chapter status through FRN national at the same time. I took an interest in hunger and food issues as a freshman. I also began to hear about the waste that was occurring in dining halls. The FRN seemed to be a good option to address food waste and also mobilize students to become more involved on campus and in the community.
What is the Food Recovery Network’s mission, both across college campuses and specific to West Virginia University?
The FRN’s mission is to fight waste and feed people. Our specific chapter wants to help our partner businesses and restaurants to help reduce and manage their food waste, and we also want to help people in need while doing so. Food recovery is a temporary solution to ending food waste and it certainly should not be depended on to feed the hungry.
We really enjoy helping out our partner agencies, but at the same time, we try to be aware of the real struggles related to poverty in the United States. People go hungry for many different reasons, and donating leftovers won’t remedy those. However, the FRN sees this as an opportunity to start trying to change the system, because in the U.S., it is estimated that we waste about 40 percent of the food we generate.
What does the FRN do on campus, and what is a typical meeting like?
The FRN currently operates one large recovery at Summit Grab ‘n Go on Friday nights. This food donation is taken to The Rosenbaum House and The Ronald McDonald House in Morgantown. We also get almost weekly donations from Round Right Farm in Preston County.
This week, we gleaned at Round Right Farm for the first time, which involves going out to the farm and picking up the produce they didn’t harvest from the crop. In addition to the recoveries and gleaning, we are working with the Sierra Student Coalition to get a composting initiative started on campus. We are hoping to start with coffee grounds, which will probably be the most manageable place to start considering the size of WVU and the large kitchens we have on campus. Composting also has many logistics to be worked out.
We are really excited for this and are working diligently to make it happen. It’s a lot of organizing and meeting with faculty, staff, and students. In addition, we have social events, cook dinner at our partner agencies and participate in activities on campus open to other student organizations.
What are the FRN’s goals and projects for this school year?
This year, we are focused on getting this composting project started. Many other universities already have composting in place and we feel as though West Virginia and Morgantown could benefit from a compost if organized and managed properly. It takes a lot of work, but with the support of other student organizations and faculty and staff, we think we can make it happen. Additionally, we want to attend the FRN National Dialogue in the spring, so fundraising is a big focus for us.
What are students’ roles in the organization, and how can they get involved?
We have many officer roles that help our organization run smoothly. This ranges from marketing to coordinating our volunteers, and from serving as a liaison to the national organization to managing our data. We recover every Friday evening, so we are always looking for more members to volunteer an hour of their time and make those possible.
In addition, we just welcome anyone who is interested in fighting food waste. It’s not only an environmental problem, but it’s upsetting to know how much food goes to waste in a world where some people have nothing.