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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Food Recovery Network weighs waste

(Food Recovery Network)It’s been hard to miss them by the tray line, collecting leftover Dining Hall food from student plates. The members of the Food Recovery Network (FRN) are working on their “Tray Weigh” statistical study to see how much food is wasted per meal, per student, per week. The FRN was started at Grinnell by Dylan Bondy ’16, current president of the club, and has attracted many students on campus. The group aims to decrease the amount of student food waste and distribute leftover food to low-income communities in and around Grinnell.

“We’re in the Dining Hall, collecting leftover food from one in every five trays, and weighing the amount of waste on those trays,” said FRN statistician Tela Ebersole ’16.

“In 2011, statistical studies estimated that the amount of food waste in Grinnell College was approximately 2600 pounds per week,” Bondy said. “We’re trying to update that statistic, but also trying to raise awareness about the amount of waste here in Grinnell College.”

The FRN is a national non-profit organization with many chapters in colleges throughout the United States, which aims to combat food waste and hunger, following in their official slogan: “Fighting Waste, Feeding People.”

The campus club has projects planned to spread awareness about food waste to the student body through the use of posters and statistics. Next semester they will carry out a second “Tray Weigh” statistical study to see if their efforts made an impact to change the mentality about uneaten food and hopefully reduce waste levels on campus.

The “Tray Weigh” study is only one of three projects that the club has planned for this year.

“We’re currently in the process of finding a network that can store and distribute all the leftover perishable food items from the Dining Hall,” said FRN member Chris Merchant ’17.

Having received approval to pick up food from the Dining Hall daily and deliver it to local food banks, the FRN had originally hoped to work with the non-profit organization Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc. (MICA) this year to help them distribute leftover food. MICA provides multiple services to low-income families in Hardin, Marshall, Poweshiek, Story and Tama counties.

“Unfortunately, MICA doesn’t have the infrastructure or the volunteers to be delivering perishable food every day,” Bondy said.

However, Bondy is optimistic that their efforts in staying strictly in the Grinnell community will strengthen the relationship between the College and the town community. He has already been working with the First Presbyterian Church of Grinnell to figure out food distribution measures.

“The Food Recovery Network chapter in Grinnell College can help merge the town of Grinnell and Grinnell College because we oftentimes have the problem of keeping the two separate. I think it’s important for community relations,” Bondy said.

The last project the FRN plans to undertake this year is to place long-term donation bins for non-perishables around the Spencer Grill. The FRN had a campaign similar to this one last May, where they placed temporary donation bins in the Grill for students to freely donate their unwanted items. Their efforts collected about 600 pounds worth of non-perishable food items to be donated to local food banks.

“Let’s say there’s a packaged option in someone’s outtakes that they don’t want, or something from their room that’s non-perishable—students can donate those in our bins,” Bondy said.

Bondy hopes that successful efforts of Grinnell College’s FRN chapter this year will be extremely helpful for the national organization.

“I feel like Grinnell is the first chapter to be in our situation, where we are a very small college located in a rural area. That gives us different circumstances to work with. The chapters in the other colleges, such as American University or University of Texas-Austin, have a greater access to resources and distribution measures,” Bondy added. “Once Grinnell figures our distribution measures, however, we’ll be able to share our methods with other colleges in our situation who are hoping to create a chapter themselves.”

Club members feel that it’s important to be involved in efforts to combat food waste and hunger.

“I am passionate about helping people. As people who are quite privileged, it’s important to be aware of our actions to ensure that we aren’t doing more harm than good,” Ebersole said.

This feeling is mutual among the members of the group.

“I think we can set a precedent as a generation,” Merchant said. “There’s so much food waste that happens in this nation, that if we can change things little by little, it can add up to a whole lot.”

The Food Recovery Network meets  every Sunday at 4  p.m. in JRC 209.

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