BY FALLON FISCHER
Every Thursday, Lauren Twele, a junior marine science biology major and president of UT’s chapter of the Food Recovery Network (FRN), and Jennifer Campbell, a senior political science major and the vice president, collect the excess food from UT’s cafeteria. The students, who started UT’s chapter of the FRN together, then bring it to Tampa Heights where Cornerstone Kids, Inc., a nonprofit after school program, feeds neighborhood children.
“We were looking for another on-campus sustainability initiative that we could tackle during our time at UT, and we started to look into the Food Recovery Network,” Twele said. “We chose to partner with Cornerstone Kids because it is so close, and the people in dining love the kids and it’s for a really good cause.”
UT’s chapter of the FRN started in 2016. The FRN provides students with the proper resources to collect excess food on campuses nationwide so that it can be donated to deserving organizations. Cornerstone Kids offers tutoring, mentoring, proper nutrition to at-risk children ages 5 to 11 and aids with their social and emotional development.
“I had always thought the excess food from the cafeteria was just thrown away,” said Ryan Cowie, a junior allied health major. “I think it’s a great idea to donate the food instead of letting it go to waste.”
Since the initial collaboration with the FRN at UT, 541 pounds of food has been donated to Cornerstone Kids. This semester alone, UT’s chapter donated 74 pounds of food. Information on the total amounts donated can be found on foodrecoverynetwork.org.
“[UT’s FRN] has saved us so much money with the fruits and desserts they bring and the kids love it,” said Olatha Leggett, program director for Cornerstone Kids. “Lauren and Jenn have brought so much into our program, not only with the food, but they come every week and do homework with our kids; they also bring lessons and play games with the kids.”
The lessons given by Twele and Campbell cover the topics of food sustainability, the food system cycle and the origin of specific foods. Twele and Campbell also invite students looking to volunteer to join them each week with collecting and donating the food and participating with the kids at the after school program.
“It’s a very rewarding few hours of service,” said Ally Marter, junior environmental science major, who volunteered with FRN. “You start to build relationships with the adults who run the after school program and with the students themselves by spending time with them.”
UT is also hosting a one-day national FRN conference on April 6 for all Florida universities. The event is being coordinated by Campbell and Twele and will be the first FRN conference ever held at UT.
“The FRN national office reached out to us to host this regional summit,” Twele said. “We’re gonna talk about best practices, share ideas, and get to know people who are doing FRN across our state, and are contributing to this national movement.”
Currently there are six chapters of FRN in Florida.
Some universities from Florida that will attend the conference are the University of North Florida, Rollins College and USF.
“At the conference we will talk about all aspects of food sustainability and finding a way to stop hunger,” Campbell said. “We will also be doing a volunteer activity at the sustainable living project which provides food for the local community.”
All students from UT are welcome to the attend the conference and can register to attend online at foodrecoverynetwork.org, according to Campbell. Students can also sign up to volunteer with the FRN through the PEACE volunteer center on campus.
You can reach Fallon Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.