Tags Posts tagged with "food recovery network"

food recovery network

About a quarter of New Haven residents don’t have enough food or enough money to buy food, and most people who can’t afford food don’t go hungry for just a day or a week — they experience food insecurity over long periods of time. The Food Recovery Network, the largest student movement against food waste and hunger in America, has created a sustainability network across the United States where “food recovery is the norm and not the exception.”

To address hunger in Greater New Haven, in 2015 the Office of Sustainability, along with Residence Life, partnered with Chartwell’s and the Food Recovery Network’s Connecticut chapter to collect excess unserved food from Conn Hall and campus food retail locations. The unserved food is delivered to soup kitchens like the one at St. Ann’s Church in Hamden. “Without the students, we wouldn’t have any of it,” says Suzanne Huminski, campus sustainability coordinator. Each semester, SCSU sustainability interns plan and manage all aspects of daily food recovery, including logistics, collection and delivery, scheduling, administrative meetings, tracking results, and communications with community partners.

The food recovery program is the fastest growing initiative that the Office of Sustainability oversees. Since 2015, over 30,000 pounds of food have been diverted from the waste stream, which equates to 23,000 meals served to those in need. The food recovery program has been such a success that there are plans to expand it. “We find that it really resonates with students, from donating the food to thinking about where the food is going and how’s processed,” says Heather Sterns, recycling coordinator.

Nonperishable foods collected from resident students are delivered to St. Ann’s Church food pantry.

The nonperishable food collection is another initiative that engages students. At the end of each semester, when they move out of their residence halls, resident students are encouraged to donate their unused, nonperishable foods instead of throwing it all away. Julie DellaVecchia ‘17, now a university assistant in the Sustainability Office, notifies students months beforehand with handouts and flyers, asking them to save as much food as they can before collection. The efforts for the 2018 spring semester yielded 2,500 pounds of nonperishable foods to go to people in need.

The impact of Southern’s sustainability efforts isn’t just felt on campus. “We make sure to reach a broader campus community and the city of New Haven to promote and facilitate sustainability,” says Huminski. Fighting food insecurity and giving people in the Greater New Haven area not just the resources they need, but the education to produce these resources, is just one way Southern gives back to the community.

The campus garden is another example of Southern’s outreach. The garden is student-run, and the produce grown in the garden is donated to organizations in the community, such as soup kitchens and emergency food pantries. Jennifer Anaziano, ‘18, is one of the sustainability interns who works in the garden. “We do things like weed, and recently we’ve planted more basil plants and a butterfly bush,” says Anaziano, adding, “we grow produce without using any pesticides. We only use organic chemicals.” In 2017, the garden was able to donate over 900 pounds of food to organizations in the community.

Last year, the Sustainability Office partnered with CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) and New Haven Farms to allow the students to grow more produce and offer nutrition programs, cooking demonstrations, and garden tours to families during the summer. Founded in 2007, CARE works to identify solutions to health challenges through community-based research and projects focusing on social, environmental, and behavioral risk factors. The summer garden nutrition program is running again this summer, again serving area residents who want to learn about growing fresh fruits and vegetables, nutrition, and healthy cooking. Many of the participants don’t have a yard, so they can’t have a garden, and they enjoy watching the vegetables grow and learning how to cook with fresh produce.

A tour of the campus organic garden, during the summer garden nutrition program

Having people take what they learn from the community garden and sharing it with friends and family is a major step towards a more sustainable future, “Sustainability is a long-term issue that is never going to go away, so having a population that is prepared to manage those challenges in the future is vital,” says Huminski.

 

Food Recovery NetworkEver wonder what happens to that sandwich in The Bagel Wagon that has reached the “best by” date on its label? Prior to this past summer, it would be thrown away, but now, foods that Chartwells can no longer sell when they reach that date no longer go to waste, thanks to the efforts of the Sustainability Office, Chartwells, and a dedicated student intern.

This past summer, Southern joined the Food Recovery Network, a national organization that supports college students recovering perishable and non-perishable foods on their campuses that would otherwise go to waste and donating them to people in need.  Heather Stearns, recycling coordinator, says that Chartwells hired a student intern, Ashley Silva, who is focused on sustainability, and has been working with her on a weekly food collection schedule. Each week, Silva makes the rounds to the Bagel Wagon, Davis Outtakes, and the North Campus Kiosk and collects perishable foods — including salads, sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, bagels, and hummus — that have reached their “best by” date. The foods would be thrown away when they reach that date, but they are still safe to eat. So after Silva collects them, they are donated to Connecticut Food Bank, a private, nonprofit organization that works with corporations, community organizations, and individuals to solicit, transport, warehouse and distribute donated food.

newshub-triad-food-recovery-15
In addition to the food collected from campus Chartwells locations, fruits, vegetables, and herbs from the campus organic garden are harvested and donated to local soup kitchens such as the Community Dining Room in Branford and St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen in Hamden. Pounds of produce such as squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, various greens, corn, peas, potatoes, peppers, and basil, are donated on a regular basis. This fall, Southern donated almost 200 pounds of fresh produce that was grown at the garden, located behind Davis Hall.  Suzanne Huminski, sustainability coordinator, says that throughout the fall semester, between the garden and FRN efforts, over 600 pounds of food have been collected and donated.

To promote community awareness of hunger and food insecurity in Connecticut, students working on FRN at Southern organized a recent campus event called “Hunger 101,” meant to be a conversation about food access and food justice in the state. The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines “food security” as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” According to the Sustainability Office’s website, over 14 percent — of New Haven County residents — nearly 123,000 people — are food insecure, and over 19 percent of all hunger-stricken residents are children.

To expand the university’s food donation program, the Sustainability Office is placing permanent food donation boxes in the lobby of the Facilities building, in the Wintergreen building, and on the second floor of Engleman, outside of the FYE Office. Members of the university community are encouraged to donate non-perishable food items year-round. Donations from these collection sites will be brought to the Connecticut Food Bank in Wallingford each week. Stearns also encourages staff and faculty to bring food items to the Sustainability Office during the regular Swap Shop open houses.

Anyone interested in helping with FRN efforts on campus can call Silva in the Sustainability Office at (203) 392-7135.