A new student organization called the Food Recovery Network was recently established on the University of Rochester River Campus. The group’s mission is to recover leftover food from the University’s dining halls and donate it to local soup kitchens. They also engage in food related community service and raise awareness regarding local hunger and sustainable food use. The group began operating in October and they has already donated approximately 800 pounds of food to the soup kitchen St. Peter’s Kitchen.
The group was founded by senior Sara Ribakove. She had the idea to establish a chapter of the Food Recovery Network at the University in late August, after which she began garnering support among her peers and forging partnerships with dining services and St. Peter’s Kitchen. By October, the club had gained “preliminary status,” a phase in which an organization begins functioning and demonstrates that it is capable of carrying out its mission effectively. After four months, the Food Recovery Network achieved full Student Association (SA) recognition as a financially supported student organization.
The Food Recovery Network is now thriving. The club has 35 active members who recover food from Douglass Dining Center and the Starbucks in Wilson Commons. Every Wednesday members weigh and take inventory of the leftover food, and on Thursdays they deliver it to the soup kitchen where it is cooked into meals for their visitors. Volunteering at St. Peter’s Kitchen is an incredibly fulfilling experience for the organization’s members. Ribakove relates, “It’s really rewarding to get to know the community better and I really enjoy getting to bring new members there. The visitors don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and there is no one that doesn’t say, ‘have a blessed day.’ They are some of the most thankful people.”
In addition to providing a rewarding experience, the program benefits the environment by donating food rather than throwing it away and creating waste. The inventory logs maintained by the Food Recovery Network have also highlighted products that Dining Services has been purchasing in surplus. Dining Services has consequently cut back on these items, which decreases overall waste in the long run. “The most important aspect in terms of sustainability is to make what you need and not create waste,” Ribakove says. “The next step is to donate. The last step is to compost.” The newly instated Food Recovery Network enhances these sustainable methods at the University, while helping the greater Rochester community as well.
Another sustainable Dining initiative occurring soon is Local Foods Week, which will highlight local vendors throughout the dining halls on River Campus from April 21st through April 24th. Each dining center will have one major event. Douglass Dining Center’s Meatless Mondays, an Earth Day lunch at Danforth Dining Center, and a beer-paired dinner at The Meliora will all be catered by local vendors. Local vendors will also be in campus dining halls and coffee shops throughout the week displaying and offering samples of their products. Kevin Aubrey, Unit Marketing Manager at Dining Services, says that overall the goal of local foods week is to “showcase the University’s dedication to local foods and show off local vendors while offering different foods and switching up the menu for students.”
While the University is creating an exciting culinary experience with Local Foods Week, the event also benefits the environment by cutting down on the energy costs accrued in transporting food longer distances. Local Foods Week can also result in a permanent partnership between the University and new local vendors, so that this sustainable distribution is continued. More broadly, the weeklong event raises awareness about buying locally grown products.
This year’s event will mark the eighth anniversary of Local Foods Week, and Dining Services is aiming to make the event even bigger and better than previous years. “Our goal is to make local foods week a mainstay for campus with landmark events that students can remember and look forward to,” Aubrey says.
The event is sure to be filled with unique products, interesting vendors, and delicious treats. Click here for the upcoming schedule of exciting events.
Written by Abigail Fagan, class of 2014