Meeting and greeting on the cozy second floor of the Volunteer Center, Lawrence University Food Recovery Network (LUFRN) held an open house last week. Co-heads junior Megan Murphy and sophomore Zhiru Wang were available from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in order to promote the group and field questions. They say the aim of the Food Recovery Network is to help minimize food waste on campus and to fight back against hunger in the Appleton area.
Throughout the week, the group works with Lawrence’s own food provider, Bon Appetit Management Company, to save some of the food left over from the meals during the day. “Bon Appetit usually overestimates how much food they’re going to need,” said Murphy. “At the end, there’s a lot of perfectly good food that doesn’t even get touched. Bon App lets us have it as long as we switch it into our own pans, since theirs aren’t allowed to leave the kitchen.”
After the food is gathered from Andrew Commons, the Food Recovery Network prepares it to be picked up by local service-based organizations, like the Fox Cities branch of the Salvation Army, and the St. Joseph Parish, which is Catholic Church in the area that runs a ‘non-profit, non-sectarian organization’ known as the St. Joseph Food Program. From the statement on their website, the organization “distributes 30 tons of fresh food and non-perishable items to hundreds of men, women and children” every week.
Hunger is an especially painful issue in the Fox Valley community. There is a large population of homeless people in the area, many of them without regular access to food. On July 27, the Post-Crescent reported that in one night, 27 people were found sleeping outdoors without a place to go. It was a 52% increase from a similar count the year before. According to the Post-Crescent, typically around 300-350 people are suffering from homelessness in the Fox Cities at any given time.
Feedingamerica.org, a national organization committed to fighting hunger in the United States, claims that “food insecurity” is a daily reality for 1 in 9 people and 1 in 6 children in Wisconsin alone. Like the Lawrence University Food Recovery Network, feedingamerica.org focuses on the promotion of more conscientious habits, and the repurposing of untouched, otherwise wasted food into the homes of families who need it.
Murphy and Wang say that the Lawrence chapter of the Food Recovery Network was the first of a few started in Wisconsin, as it is a national organization with branches in college campuses all across the country. They also say that about 2,000 pounds of food were saved from the Commons last year. But the group strives to do more than just the bare minimum.
They have organized events like movie and discussion nights, something called “Food Banquet” where you can experience what it’s like to live with very little access to food, and even a trip to a nearby recycling center and landfill. “I didn’t realize how bad it was until I actually saw it,” said Wang. “It was very eye-opening.”