The Food Recovery Network at New Mexico State University has grown leaps and bounds during the Spring 2016 semester. As a team, we have recovered over 1,500 pounds of food on our college campus that would have otherwise gone to waste. We completed several recoveries from our campus dining hall, Taos (a Sodexo facility), but our biggest and most successful recovery was our First Annual Dorm Food Recovery. During an officer meeting, we brainstormed ways to recover more food on campus, and collectively we decided on the dorm recovery. We recruited 30 FRNds to volunteer Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. during finals week, May 9-12. Thanks to the generosity and participation of our Social Work Faculty, many of the volunteers received extra credit on their final exams. But this was not the only thing that motivated this amazing group of people: it was our desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and a chance to give back to the community. Our volunteers were so enthusiastic, many of them engaged the campus community in conversations on food waste and how we, as students, can get involved in fighting food waste and becoming a part of Food Recovery Network at NMSU.
The response was amazing and we recovered more food than any of us expected. Over 700 pounds of dry goods and nonperishable items were recovered and donated to the local food bank, Casa de Perigrinos. During the time that we did not have active volunteers collecting food we had bright green boxes in each of the residence halls serving as a collection station until the volunteers showed up everyday at 5 p.m. When we first presented this idea to the head of the residence halls, we received some push back and doubt, but after we proved to have a system in place to keep the lobbies of the residence halls from becoming a food pile-up disaster, we were invited back to do this end-of-semester dorm recovery on a regular basis.
It is a wonderful feeling to know that we may have sparked a new trend on college campuses, and to think of all the ramen noodles that get a second chance at life and all the bellies that won't have to go to bed hungry is simply amazing. Yes, part of food justice is encouraging healthy food choices, but if we can help feed one more person, and eliminate just a little bit more waste, then we’ve accomplished something. A majority of the volunteers and officers of FRN at NMSU are Social Work students, and this event provided real hands on experience for us to see that what we are preparing to do in our careers- helping people in the community. Food Recovery Network has made such a huge impact not only on our campus, but in the Las Cruces community as well. It has been a great honor to serve and work under the Food Recovery Network and we look forward to growing our local chapter in the semesters to come.