Campus & Community

DU students help fight food waste on campus

It was in a writing class during the spring of his first year at DU that Paul Sherman was first exposed to the idea of food justice. His instructor showed her students a documentary on the Food Recovery Network (FRN), a nationwide organization dedicated to fighting food waste and hunger at the same time. They do so by recovering surplus and leftover food from college campuses and then donating it to the hungry. Sherman was immediately inspired to start a FRN chapter at the University of Denver.

“The second I watched the documentary, I was so drawn to the idea [of FRN] and how simple it is,” says Sherman, now a junior double majoring in religious studies and international studies. “There is so much food that goes to waste, but it is such an easy problem to solve. You’re solving [the problem of] waste, and you’re also feeding people.”

A few weeks after watching the documentary, Sherman contacted FRN’s national headquarters to discuss setting up a DU chapter. Within weeks, FRN at DU was up and running. The chapter now consists of 11 members, all of whom are undergraduates. Sherman and his leadership team spend eight to 10 hours a week planning deliveries, coordinating rides and delivering food.

“The dining halls were really helpful as soon as we got started,” Sherman says. “Right now we mostly recover food from Nagel Hall, Centennial Halls, the [Knoebel] School of Hospitality Management and events that DU hires catering for. All they have to do is not throw the food away, and we are willing to do everything else. We put the food in pans, weigh it and drive it over to the homeless shelter. Often times the dining halls are really helpful and package it for us.”

DU’s FRN chapter currently distributes food to just one homeless shelter — the Denver Rescue Mission on Lawrence Street — but the group is hoping to expand its services over the next year.

Some members of the FRN Leadership team, including first-year student Isabell Rummel, also are members of the DU Sustainability Community (SUSCOM), which shares the FRN’s commitment to reducing waste and fighting hunger and with which Sherman is collaborating. In an effort to be more sustainable, Sherman and his team hope to use bikes with large trailers — provided by SUSCOM — to deliver the food.

“We’re also working on applying for a grant from SUSCOM for reusable pans,” Sherman says. “The whole goal is to reduce waste. Our slogan is ‘fighting waste, feeding people.’ We usually use aluminum pans, but when we do that, we are only fighting food waste and still producing other waste.”

The grant will allow DU’s FRN chapter to significantly reduce its waste. “We will essentially be producing zero waste,” Sherman says, “which is our whole purpose.”

Since spring 2015, FRN at DU has donated more than 6,000 pounds of food. The contribution helped the national organization reach the milestone of donating its one-millionth pound of food.

“My favorite part is that we are killing two birds with one stone. You see how much of this food was going to be in the garbage, and then you bring it to the shelter and see the looks on people’s faces when you give the food to the volunteers,” Sherman says. “You know that it is going to hungry people.”

The Denver Rescue Mission, which opened its community center on Lawrence Street in 2014, feeds hundreds of homeless people daily.

“This year, we went from providing 1,000 meals a day to providing 1,500. So any donated food is so helpful. We really appreciate what the FRN chapter at DU is doing for us. Every bit of food helps,” Alexxa Gagner, director of public relations at the Denver Rescue Mission, says.

To find out more, or to learn about how to join DU’s FRN chapter, visit the Food Recovery at DU Facebook Page.

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