#FRN5Years and Trifecta Present: An Interview With Carleton College

Northfield, Minnesota is home to the outstanding Food Recovery Network (FRN) chapter at Carleton College. The chapter has seen tremendous growth since its founding in 2013; since then, the number of partner organizations has grown from one to five, and the number of food rescues went from one per week in one dining hall to two per day in two dining halls. In celebrating #FRN5Years, we wanted to highlight how this growth came to be at Carleton, and their plans for the future.

 

Mika Chmielewski, the current coordinator of activities for the chapter, regards Shira’s leadership as one of the main inspirations for her own work. Mika is one of a four-member team that currently runs the chapter, which has over 50 members. Coordinating so many people while maintaining a full course load constantly tests Mika’s leadership skills. A senior physics major, Mika modestly calls her work  “mainly logistics, moving containers between dining halls, helping volunteers if they can’t find something, bringing food to community partners.” According to Mika, “the work has pushed me far beyond my comfort zone in dealing with the myriad of situations that arise when coordinating so many moving parts and it has built my confidence as a leader and coordinator.”

 

Mika credits attendance at the FRN’s National Food Recovery Dialogue for helping to keep her motivated “while I’m carrying tubs of container lids across a snowy campus.” The people Mika met, together with the incentives gained from learning about other chapters’ remarkable projects have helped her keep focused on the importance of food recovery when everyday problems arise back on campus.

 

Mika also values FRN for providing “a great avenue for meeting community members with whom I would not otherwise have had a chance to interact.” She recalls one instance when she attended an event sponsored by one of the chapter’s partners, Northfield Food Shelf. There, she struck up a conversation about food justice in the Northfield community with a teacher, Cheryl Mathison. “That initial interaction sparked the idea for a collaboration between Ms. Mathison’s school and our chapter, resulting in her becoming one of our first partners. As a result of running a FRN chapter, I have been able to keep working with her and to connect with other partners.”

 

One such other partner is the afterschool program, Greenville Park Community School (GPCS), a public school serving nearly 50 percent of families classified as “low-income”.  When Carleton students make their Tuesday deliveries to GPCS, the chapter members become educators themselves as they “sell” food that may, at first glance, seem strange to the students. For example, they educate students on how delicious root vegetables such as turnips and rutabagas can be when prepared the right way. Mika says the students get excited to see what’s new on the menu, ask questions about the food, and are curious about the health benefits that the food provides. Typically, half the students — between 40 to 50— have a chance to write their names on the food containers they want to take home. Each container feeds at least one adult or two students. Parents that come to pick up the students are also welcome to pick cartons themselves.

 

Mika also credits Bon Appétit Management Company, Carleton’s food service, for being a supportive partner. From an operator’s perspective, Food Manager Katie McKenna has seen many benefits from the FRN partnership with Bon Appétit. The main one, she says, is that it “tunes the team into what they have been wasting. They watch lines closely to ensure that we have food for all of our guests, but they reduce production to actually help us save money.” Still, her employees provide enough recovered food for daily deliveries from two kitchens. Katie praises the students for consistently working with her staff and not interrupting the staff’s work. This helps make the FRN partnership “painless for a food provider to be enrolled in the program” as well as “a great way to interact with the students and community.”

 

Katie also values the opportunities that FRN students have provided in regards to personally connecting with the food recipients. One notable event was a recent luncheon that Katie helped the chapter organize for Whispers of Hope, a center for women in need of recovery from abuse and other trauma. She and the student leaders sat down with the clients of Whispers of Hope to share food and listen to each other’s stories. Hearing the women tell of the dramatic impact recovered food has made in their lives, as Katie explains, helped the Carleton Community “connect the dots” to get a better perspective on why their efforts are so important.


The Carlton College FRN chapter has helped make a dramatic impact on their community. Every year, they have extended the number of community partners they serve and the amount of food they deliver. Katie affectionately describes the students as “cool student foodies.”  And how do the students see their remarkable progress? As Mika recently stated, “Now that we have smoothed out many of our initial challenges — gaining access to the dining hall, obtaining a fridge, connecting with the larger community — we can focus more on outreach in order to include more of the campus in our recovery program.” Their highest hope is one voiced by many FRN members across the country — to establish a FRN chapter at every college and university in the United States. Mika hopes to help do it by 2020!

 

FRN Press Round Up

Food Recovery Network has had an incredible start in 2017. In about a month, our student leaders have recovered over 25,000 pounds, and we've surpassed 200 chapters in our network. This past week, FRN has been featured in some great publications:

  1. Food Recovery Network @ WVU (West Virginia University) was mentioned in the The Daily Athenaeum for rallying around scientific research.
  2. Washington Square News, NYU's independent student newspaper, highlighted the work that Two Birds One Stone has been doing to recover food and educate the campus.
  3. In a feature on Lovin' Spoonful's Plenty Program, which aims to teach people how to cook healthy foods on a budget, Civil Eats also mentioned FRN amongst organizations who are working to tackle food waste.
  4. The Jewish Journal published a great piece on Imperfect Produce, who works to deliver less attractive produce to homes in order to reduce waste. Ben Simon, our founder, co-founded Imperfect and serves as its CEO.
  5. The Kansas City Star highlighted Thomas Anjard, who founded the FRN chapter at Kansas State University.

We are so proud of the work that all of our students, staff and alumni have done over the years. If your chapter has made the news or a blog, let us know! Send an e-mail to media@foodrecoverynetwork.org.

Food Tank Summit 2017 Reflections and Inspirations

The Food Recovery Network team was excited to attend and volunteer at The 2017 Food Tank Summit! The summit was a time of reflection, learning and service. After the Summit, FRN staff shared their experiences and the moments that inspired them most!

"I had the opportunity to share about FRN with students from schools across the country who are currently studying at American University. The enthusiasm was uplifting to witness, and when their semester is over, they plan to take our mission back to their home communities to fight waste and feed people." - Hannah, Program Manager

 

“I was delighted with the level of collaboration and teamwork. After breakfast, food tank volunteers helped us package up the food and carry it down to the main lobby. At lunch the fellows from Elevation burger made sure to communicate with me about how long the burgers had been out of the oven. The enthusiasm and helpfulness of everyone at the Summit made the food recovery smooth and easy.” - Shira, Program & Outreach Fellow

“It was amazing utilizing my time to serve the community. The members at Central Union were so grateful and thankful that we were able to bring them nutritious food. Receiving a thank you and smile was a reminder that FRN is doing the right thing and our time is appreciated.” - Danielle, Office Coordinator

 

“I volunteered at the Food Tank registration desk, where I was fortunate to meet other industry professionals and students interested in improving food systems. I was also able to watch the first half of the summit live.

Something I loved about the summit was its calls to action. A resounding message I heard from the speakers overall was that our world rests on food systems, and therefore improving food systems should transcend politics. In addition to political decisions and technological innovation, building a better food system requires cultural shifts. As chef and activist Jose Andres shouted, we should all ask ourselves ‘where can I be an agent of change?’” - Gaby, Partner Liaison VISTA

I'm grateful I had the opportunity to volunteer at FoodTank's Policy conference. I enjoyed helping attendees properly dispose of their waste, and the opportunity to listen to an array of voices in the food justice movement. I was greatly encouraged by many of the speaker's emphasis on combating food waste and improving access to land for young farmers as bipartisan goals within agricultural policy. " - Emily, Data & Program Support VISTA

Q&A with the OCC Food Riders, Part 2

On Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons, while many students at Orange Coast College are in class or planning for the weekend, a cohort of student leaders are preparing for their weekly food recovery rides. For seven years, the OCC Food Riders have become a fixture in Costa Mesa, California by delivering surplus food from the cafeteria on campus, to local nonprofit partners by bicycle. They load up trailers with food, both perishable and nonperishable, attach them to the back of their bicycles, and make the 3.5-mile trip to their nonprofit partners Share Our Selves and the Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene.

Orange Coast College is a two-year community college, and is where the Food Riders first started their journey, and still continues to be their homebase. Each semester, about a dozen Food Riders, who typically stick with the program for at least two semesters before they transfer out to university, embark on the route which they have made over 550 times.

Over e-mail, I spoke with Carl Morgan, founder and permanent faculty advisor of the Food Riders, as well as Roy Duvall, safety officer and treasurer. Carl and Roy discuss how the group came together, how they serve the Costa Mesa community and the keys to remaining a successful organization, which they hope to spread all over the country.

This is the second half of a two-part interview. Read part one here.

Are the Food Riders comprised of seasoned cyclists or are there many casual riders?

ROY: Few are seasoned street-riding cyclists, maybe 10%. Some are casual commuter cyclists that cycle to school, some have never ridden on a public street with vehicular traffic. About half do not own bicycles, and used one of the six folding bicycles available for Food Riders use. A few Food Riders assist with the food packaging only, and do not participate in the rides, usually due to heavy class loads.

A haul from one of the Food Riders' donation trips, with lots of peanut butter and canned proteins and vegetables.

A haul from one of the Food Riders' donation trips, with lots of peanut butter and canned proteins and vegetables.

In your handbook, you mention that you one of your goals is for potential Food Riders in other communities to adapt your framework. Has that happened yet? 

ROY: We run into other community volunteers donating perishable foods to the same food pantries that we serve. Some are not aware of ServSafe certification or good food handling practices, most do not know that they have protections under the Emerson Good Samaritan Act for Donated Foods. Before we knew of the existence of the FRN, we decided to publish a handbook intended for these community-based food recovery operations. With the assistance of a group of graduate students at University of Dallas, we published our Food Riders Handbook in 2015.

Have you connected with similar groups that have been inspired by your work?

ROY: We have presented by invitation at two academic conferences. The California Higher Education Food Summit (CHEFS) hosted at UC-Irvine in Jan. 2016, and the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference, hosted at CSU-Fullerton, in June 2016. Our Food Riders Handbook was a factor in both invitations.

What have been some challenges of sustaining your organization.

CARL: We really haven't had many challenges sustaining our organization. We have needed to stay focused on our core mission of delivering food twice per week, but we have a simple operation that is easy to maintain with a few committed people.

What are some of the lessons learned?

ROY: NEVER let a reference to us as a bicycle club stand. We are a food recovery organization. No, we are not "the bicycle club over at the college." We have flat terrain and good trails, so we transport by bicycle and trailer.

Rider-safety is paramount. I became an accredited League Cycling Instructor to become better qualified to be our safety rider. All of our riders are video-recorded from my handlebars and/or helmet. These videos are used for incident review, and deleted. They are also used to critique my performance as the rear safety rider. With student permission, video clips are published for special occasions.

We are a "poster child" for food recovery. Seven years is not a trial run. We are as "grass-roots" as a group can get. It is about the partnership with the OCC cafeteria and the food pantries, not the bicycles. Our mission is also to inspire others to act - food recovery at the zip code level is a national solution to hunger.

And my often-repeated punch line: If the OCC Food Riders can do this for seven years, with bicycles and trailers, every college campus in America con do food recovery. Lead from the front.

Did you make any resolutions for 2017?

ROY: Since you asked, yes. And you are the first to hear it. I intend to carry a Food Riders / FRN flag across the US, from California to Florida, on a cross-country cycling trip in the summer of 2018. I am working on the route now.

CARL: We hope to make a connection with a course in our OCC culinary program that specializes in proteins. The students in this class work with a different protein every Tuesday. The course instructor said that he would consider working with the Food Riders this year to provide some food for us to deliver to SOS on Wednesday mornings. We are excited about this possibility.


Thank you Roy and Carl for the great interview! Follow the OCC Food Riders on their journey on Facebook and on Instagram.

Celebrating Parnerships with #FRN5Years Interviews

The relationship between student leaders, hunger-fighting nonprofit partners and dining providers is the foundation for the work that FRN chapters do. No matter the amount of food recovered or the size of the team, great relationships ensures that all FRN chapters are thoughtful members of the communities we serve. Over the course of this semester, we will be taking an in-depth look at how some of the relationships have evolved over time and remained so strong. 

The first three of the #FRN5Years interviews will profile chapters at Goucher College, Carleton College and The University of Denver. Follow along over at our #FRN5Years page!

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