Food Recovery Network educates on food accessibility and waste

On Friday, Sept. 28, Lawrence’s chapter of Food Recovery Network (FRN) screened the documentary “Poor Kids” to raise awareness for poverty in the U.S. and its effect on children.

The chapter’s co-President, junior Zhiru Wang, said, “A lot of people are living in a food desert in the states without knowing it. We wanted to help our audience think about differences in food accessibility and make a move to improve it.”

The film was a heartbreaking account of three poor American families, all of which had issues with food accessibility. All three described lacking the money for three meals a day and usually subsisting on cheap foods with little nutritional value.

One family mentioned eating pizza instead of fruits and vegetables, for instance. Another family had to drive an hour to get to the nearest grocery store.

Tragically, the families in the documentary lacked access to food for reasons completely beyond their control.

One mother described intense financial difficulty from her need to provide for her two children on top of her payments for antidepressants.

Another mother was not able to hold a job because she got seizures while under stress. With the financial stress this caused, food did not come easily to this family.

The film was a reminder that food is not to be taken for granted and certainly not to be wasted, which is exactly the message FRN aimed to send.

FRN works to reduce and repurpose Lawrence’s food waste and educate students on the impact and scope of food waste in the process.

Every Monday through Wednesday, for instance, the chapter recruits campus volunteers to recover surplus food from Andrew Commons. The food is distributed to those in need by the network’s partners in the Salvation Army and St. Joe’s Food Program.

Food is also collected during the FRN’s Move Out for Hunger event, in which the chapter collects unused, non-perishable food items at the end of the school year.

In addition to food recovery, FRN is also interested in educating students about sustainability.

Wang, who runs the chapter with junior co-President Michaela McElroy, said, “Starting this year, we want to do more education work. We want to inform the campus about food justice issues and encourage everyone to take action in what we want to do.” FRN aimed to do this with the screening of “Poor Kids” and also does this with their “Weigh the Waste” event.

For that event, FRN sets up a collection station in the Commons during dining hours and posts the weight of the wasted food a week later. Wang said, “This is an indirect way to educate the campus about food justice issues.”

For those interested in promoting sustainability issues like this, FRN is always accepting new volunteers. Students can show up to food recoveries on Mondays through Wednesdays outside Andrew Commons at 9 p.m. as well as meetings on Thursdays at 8:15 p.m. in Sabin House. Volunteer hours can be recorded on the network’s page on