This post is written by our FRNds at Brown University, Megan Kelly and Aida Feng. For more information about Brown's chapter, click here or email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early November generally marks the effective end of the harvest season in New England, as freezing temperatures set in and apple picking trips are traded for bonfires and visits to Christmas tree farms. At the same time, hundreds of pounds of quality produce remain unharvested in the orchards. Last month, members of Brown University's FRN chapter went on a gleaning expedition to a local orchard and set out to answer an unusual question: What does one do with 1,450 pounds of recovered apples?
FRN@Brown organized our second annual apple gleaning event with Farmer Joe Polseno at Pippin Orchard in Cranston, RI. For those unfamiliar with the term, gleaning refers to the act of collecting excess unharvested fresh food from farms at the end of their season. In one morning, we were able to recover 1,450 pounds of apples that would otherwise have gone to waste and donate fresh, nutritious food to our local partners.
On top of this, we also wanted to spark a specific conversation about food waste and sustainable food consumption on the Brown campus. In order to engage the student body with our work, we planned a campus-wide event, “Good to the Core.” With enthusiastic support from Brown University Dining Services, we chopped, cooked, and served 200 pounds of the recovered apples in our main campus dining hall. Through this event, we engaged more than 300 students in conversations about food waste and recovery and added more than 30 interested students to our representative pool.
Our campus-wide project inspired our current Leadership Team to expand their own visions and drive as well. Following the success of this project, we began an uncomfortable but necessary conversation about FRN@Brown’s true impact. The majority of the 55,000+ pounds of food we’ve recovered over the past four years has consisted largely of bagels, breads, and other bakery items. While it is better to provide these resources to food-insecure members of our community than to send these pounds to the landfill, we reevaluated the impact of these largely nutritionless donations. The outcome of these conversations have led to new community partnerships with produce and hot food donations. These efforts have the potential to enhance our chapter’s fight against local food insecurity.